Shag Safe is our sexual health campaign which aims to provide you with information about safe sex! SHAG stands for Sexual Health, Awareness and Guidance, and our aim is to provide useful information so you can keep yourself sexually healthy. Whether that is information on contraception and PrEP or how to collect your free STI testing kits, we have got you covered!
We have pop-up stalls planned throughout the term to spread the positive message and even hand out some freebies, so make sure you come and say hi! After all, safe sex is sexy.
No matter your gender identity, sexual preference, or relationship status, we want you to enjoy yourself safely and responsibly.
The risk of catching an STI is highest amongst 16-24-year-olds, so raising awareness of regular testing, staying safe and reducing the stigma around STIs so our students feel able to talk confidently is important to us.
Despite being overlooked, a positive attitude to your sexual health and well-being is just as important as your physical and mental well-being.
Free tests and contraception at the Students’ Union
You can find the student advice desk (3rd floor in the Students’ Union) where you can come in and pick up free STI tests, condoms, pregnancy tests, and other handy resources.
Below is a breakdown of some of the sex-related conditions that can affect all people who are sexually active. The information is provided by the NHS.
Let’s talk STIs
If you're worried because you think you've got an STI, get tested as soon as you can. Getting tested might sound intimidating, but don’t worry! The most common STIs can be easily cured or managed with antibiotics and treatment.
Chlamydia is the most common STI in the UK.
What is it? A bacterial infection is passed on through unprotected sex or contact with infected genital fluids.
Testing? Get tested at least once a year or if/when you suspect there is a chance you may have been infected or have symptoms. Testing is done with a urine or a swab test.
Symptoms? It’s a sneaky one because most people who have it don’t show symptoms meaning the infection can be spread without knowing. If symptoms do not show, look out for; Pain when peeing, discharge, pain during sex, bleeding after sex, testicular pain.
Treatment? Usually easily treated with antibiotics.
What are they? A common STI passed on by vaginal and anal sex, sharing sex toys, and (rarely) by oral sex.
Diagnoses? A doctor or nurse can usually diagnose warts by looking at them. You can choose to have this take place at a sexual health clinic.
Symptoms? 1 or more painless growths or lumps around your vagina, penis, or anus, itching or mild bleeding from genitals or anus.
Treatment?Includes a cream or liquid, freezing or removal.
What are they? An STI is passed on through vaginal, anal, and oral sex.
Symptoms? Small blisters that burst to leave red, open sores around your genitals, anus thighs or bum, tingling, itching or burning around genitals, pain when peeing, vaginal discharge.
Diagnoses? A swab to take some fluid from a blister or sore for testing.
Treatment? Symptoms can clear up by themselves but it’s important to get a diagnosis so you can prevent passing it on. Other treatments available are antiviral medicine or cream to help with any pain.
What are they? A bacterial STI is passed on by unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex, sharing sex toys.
Symptoms? Thick green or yellow discharge from vagina or penis, pain when peeing, and (people who menstruate) bleeding in between periods. But many people do not experience any symptoms.
Testing? Get tested regularly. Gonorrhea can be easily diagnosed by testing a sample of discharge or testing a sample of urine.
Treatment? Usually treated with antibiotics.
What is it? Syphilis is a bacterial infection that's usually caught by having sex with someone who's infected. The symptoms of syphilis are not always obvious and may eventually disappear, but you'll usually remain infected unless you get treated. Some people with syphilis have no symptoms.
- Small, painless sores or ulcers that typically appear on the penis, vagina, or around the anus, but can occur in other places such as the mouth
- A blotchy red rash that often affects the palms of the hands or soles of the feet
- Small skin growths (similar to genital warts) that may develop on the vulva in women or around the bottom (anus) in both men and women
- White patches in the mouth
- Tiredness, headaches, joint pains, a high temperature (fever) and swollen glands in your neck, groin or armpits
Treatment?It can usually be cured with a short course of antibiotics.
There are a lot of different options to choose from, so don't worry if the first method you use isn't quite right. Speak to your doctor to decide which method of contraception is best for you.
Free condoms from your Students’ Union - you can pick up free condoms from the condom dispenser in the Students’ Union reception, Student Advice waiting room or the IV Lounge at the Heath.
Using a condom is the only form of contraception that helps protect you against sexually transmitted infections as well as preventing pregnancy, so make sure you use them. If you are allergic to latex condoms, don’t panic, latex free condoms are readily available.
More about contraception
- The combined oral contraceptive pill is often just called "the pill". It contains artificial versions of female hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which are produced naturally in the ovaries.
- When taken correctly, the pill is over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
- The standard way to take the pill is to take 1 every day for 21 days, then have a break for 7 days, and during this week you have a bleed like a period. You start taking the pill again after 7 days.
- You may be able to take some types of pill with no or shorter breaks (a tailored regime), which may reduce some side effects. Speak to a doctor or nurse about your options.
- You need to take the pill at around the same time every day. You could get pregnant if you do not do this, or if you miss a pill, or vomit or have severe diarrhoea.
- The combined pill is not suitable if you are over 35 and smoke, or if you have certain medical conditions.
- The pill does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so use a condom as well.
- Condoms are the only type of contraception that can both prevent pregnancy and protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
- There are 2 types of condoms: 1) external condoms, worn on the penis – sometimes called male condoms. 2) internal condoms, worn inside the vagina – sometimes called female condoms
- When used correctly every time you have sex, male condoms are 98% effective
- Water-based lubricant is safe to use with all condoms.
- Female condoms are made from soft, thin synthetic latex or latex. They're worn inside the vagina to prevent semen getting to the womb.
- If used correctly, female condoms are 95% effective.
- They protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
- A female condom needs to be placed inside the vagina before there's any contact with the penis.
Contraceptive diaphragm or cap
- A diaphragm or cap is a barrier method of contraception. It fits inside your vagina and prevents sperm passing through the cervix (the entrance of your womb). You need to use it with a gel that kills sperm (spermicide).
- You only have to use a diaphragm or cap when you have sex, but you must leave it in for at least 6 hours after the last time you had sex. You can leave it in for longer than this, but do not take it out before.
- When used correctly with spermicide, a diaphragm or cap is 92-96% effective at preventing pregnancy.
- You may catch a sexually transmitted infection (STI) when using a diaphragm or cap. Use a condom as well to protect yourself.
- The contraceptive implant (Nexplanon) is a small flexible plastic rod that's placed under the skin in your upper arm by a doctor or nurse.
- It releases the hormone progestogen into your bloodstream to prevent pregnancy and lasts for 3 years.
- The implant is more than 99% effective.
- The implant can be taken out if you have side effects.
Intrauterine Device (IUD)
- It releases copper to stop you getting pregnant and protects against pregnancy for between 5 and 10 years. It's sometimes called a "coil" or "copper coil".
- When inserted correctly, IUDs are more than 99% effective.
- It can be put in at any time during your menstrual cycle, as long as you're not pregnant.
- It can be taken out at any time by a specially trained doctor or nurse. It's then possible to get pregnant straight away.
- It does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so you may need to use condoms as well.
Intrauterine system (IUS)
- An IUS is a small, T-shaped plastic device that's put into your womb (uterus) by a doctor or nurse.
- It releases the hormone progestogen to stop you getting pregnant and lasts for 3 to 5 years, depending on the brand.
- When inserted correctly, it's more than 99% effective.
- It can be taken out at any time by a specially trained doctor or nurse. It's possible to get pregnant straight after it's removed.
- Once the IUS is in place, you do not have to think about it.
- The IUS does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so you may need to use condoms as well.
- The traditional progestogen-only pill (POP) prevents pregnancy by thickening the mucus in the cervix to stop sperm reaching an egg.
- The desogestrel progestogen-only pill can also stop ovulation.
- The progestogen-only pill needs to be taken every day to work.
- If taken correctly, it's more than 99% effective
- You take a pill every day, with no break between packs of pills.
- The progestogen-only pill can be used if you cannot use contraception that contains oestrogen.
- You'll need to use condoms as well as the progestogen-only pill to be protected against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
- The vaginal ring (NuvaRing) is a small soft, plastic ring that you place inside your vagina.
- It releases a continuous dose of the hormones oestrogen and progestogen into the bloodstream to prevent pregnancy.
- If used correctly, the vaginal ring is more than 99% effective.
- One ring provides contraception for a month, so you don't have to think about it every day.
- You can continue to have sex when the ring is in place.
- It doesn't protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so you may need to use condoms as well.
What Is Emergency Contraception?
Emergency contraception can be taken to prevent pregnancy if people who can get pregnant have unprotected sex, or the normal method of contraception that they use fails. Emergency contraception CANNOT be used to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Emergency Contraceptive pill
The emergency contraceptive pill (sometimes called the ‘morning after pill’) come in two types: Levonelle and ellaOne.
Levonelle: this releases the female hormone progestogen into the body to prevent eggs from getting ready to grow in the womb (the beginning stage of pregnancy). You must take Levonelle no later than 3 days after having unprotected sex for it to be effective, although it is recommended for you to take it as soon as possible.
ellaOne: this contains a chemical called ulipristal acetate, which stops the body’s natural production of female hormones from working normally, delaying or preventing the body from releasing any eggs for a brief period. You need to take EllaOne no later than 5 days after having unprotected sex for it to be effective, although it is recommended for you to take it as soon as possible. Always remember: Both methods do not continue to protect you against pregnancy after you stop taking them, so you will need to switch to a regular, non-emergency contraceptive once you finish taking the emergency pills prescribed to you.
The emergency IUD
The emergency IUD (intra-uterine device): this is the same as a regular IUD, and works by releasing copper over time, which prevents pregnancy by thickening the cervical mucus and thinning the uterine lining – making it harder for sperm to get to eggs. You can have the IUD fitted up to 5 days after having unprotected sex for it to be effective. The IUD can be left in after you’ve had it fitted for an emergency, and you can leave it in for 5-10 years (depending on the type of IUD you have fitted) to continue being protected against unwanted pregnancies.
When you may need emergency contraception
- If you have recently had unprotected sex (within the past 3 to 5 days) and are not intending to get pregnant.
- If, within the past 3 to 5 days, you have had sex where your contraceptive method has failed (a condom breaking, for example) and you are not intending to get pregnant.
- If you have had sex on a day when you have forgotten to take your regular contraceptive pill and have not used any other form of contraception (therefore making the sex unprotected) and are not intending to get pregnant.
Where to get emergency contraception
You may be able to get the emergency contraceptive pill for free from the following places (please note that not all these places will offer emergency IUD fittings so please always check before turning up if this is the emergency contraception you would prefer):
- Contraception clinics.
- Sexual health/genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics.
- Some GP surgeries.
- Most pharmacies.
- Most NHS Minor injury/walk in clinics.
- Some accident and emergency (A&E) departments – always phone first to check.
Maintaining Healthy Sexual Relationships
There are a number of different ways you can maintain a healthy relationship not only with your partner/s but also with yourself, for example:
Being able to communicate what you're comfortable with as well as what you do and don't enjoy is an essential part of any sexual experience. It is also important to ensure that your partner/s are able to communicate the same back to you and that any requests to stop are understood and fulfilled.
Any boundaries set by yourself or your partner/s must be respected, and an understanding of where these boundaries lie should be outlined before any sexual contact. You must stop if you or your partner/s are no longer happy with or enjoying the experience, and using a safe word is a great way to communicate these boundaries.
The best way to reduce the risk of STIs and unwanted pregnancy is to use contraception. Make sure you use contraception correctly each time you engage in sexual activity .
It is important to get yourself tested regularly, as STIs often show few or no symptoms for months (or even years) after the interaction.
Sexual consent is an agreement to engage in sexual activity and is an essential part of any sexual activity. If you are planning to do anything sexual, it is very important that everyone involved is consenting at all times. Consenting to one thing does not mean consenting to another and consent can be withdrawn at any time - it's always okay to stop or say no at any point you don't want to continue.
If a person does not give consent and you still engage in sexual activity, this could be considered a sexual assault. If you have experienced violence or abuse, there are a range of support options you can use to Get Help. If you are concerned that you have been sexually assaulted, you can speak confidentially to the University's Disclosure Response Team. The Disclosure Response Team are a team of specialist University staff trained to respond to disclosures of violence and abuse. They take all disclosures seriously and will believe what you tell them.
See the student advice page for more information on consent