STIs, quite literally, are a sore topic for everyone involved. With the demand for sexual health services in England reaching 3.3 million people a year, things are getting to crippling point. Visits are up by almost 1500 each week and, to top it off, the total number of sexual health screenings — for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and HIV — has risen 18 per cent since 2017.
Sticky news. But, unfortunately, there are several, lesser-known ways to contract an STI that go further than not wearing a condom during sex or getting screened regularly.
To that end, we asked Dr. Daniel Fenton, Clinical Director at the private GP, London Doctors Clinic, to talk you through three of the least obvious ways you're putting yourself at risk of catching an STI.
Because someone has to, right?
1. Sharing a towel
Really, this should go without saying, but we'll go there anyway. Shared towels — think hotel rooms, high-end gyms, unhygienic housemates and office showers — are a risk when it comes to contracting an STI.
"Pubic lice, scabies and molluscum contagiosum may be passed on [through sharing towels]," says Dr. Fenton. "I strongly suggest sticking to your own towel." You've been warned.
Of course, it's a good idea to keep things neat and tidy downstairs. There are certain ways to go about it, though — do it wrong and you're at risk of a nasty infection. "Using a razor could potentially leave you more vulnerable to infections. If you have clean-shaved your bits, you could leave the surrounding skin broken and irritated," says Dr. Fenton. "When broken skin and open wounds are exposed to other bodily fluids, there is a significantly higher chance of passing on or spreading one of the blood-borne STIs."
More obviously, make sure you're the only one using your razor or trimmer and use a totally separate device for your face. If you nick yourself while grooming down there, make sure you protect yourself by wearing a condom.
3. Your beard
Sure, your hipster beard might get you familiar nods from your local barista and favourite barber, but a scraggly and ungroomed beard could make you share more than just a kiss with a partner. "It is important to be aware of pubic lice and cold sores (Herpes Type 1)," says Dr. Fenton.
"The little mites, also known as crabs or lice can find their way into beards and can live almost anywhere on the body, but may also be found in a beard as a result of oral sex and can be passed back and forth if untreated."