The Great British STI Taboo Guide
If you’ve ever lied about your sexual history, don’t worry - you are not alone.
Chemist4U have discovered the UK’s most intimate bedroom secrets within their 2022 survey, revealing that many are not as honest as they could be when it comes to sexual health.
Polling 2,000 Brits, aged between 16 and 55+, the research revealed attitudes towards love and intimacy, as well as looking at relationships and understanding of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Chemist4U asked survey respondents if they had even been tested for a sexually transmitted infection, and if so, when that test had taken place. Over half of respondents, 56%, admitted to having never been tested for an STI.
As little as 5% of respondents claimed to have been tested within the last 3 months, with this rising to only 7% when looking at respondents who were tested within the last year.
That's despite the fact that - according to Public Health England - there were 317,901 diagnoses of sexually transmitted infections made during 2020. However this number is down 25% from a whopping 424,370 since we last undertook this survey in 2017.
Gen Z have been found to test the most recently, with 14% of 16-24 year olds having tested within the last three months, the highest of any age group. Despite this, past studies have shown increases in the number of 55+ adults catching STIs suggesting that testing in this age group is potentially much lower than it should be!
When looking at the gender split, women are the least likely to get tested with 51% of women admitting to have never been tested. In comparison only 38% of men said the same.
Our survey further revealed that 13% of respondents have previously tested positive for a sexually transmitted infection. However, with less than 7% of respondents being tested in the last year, this number could in fact be much higher.
When asking the nation how they think you can catch an STI, the results are shocking! Not only has the survey highlighted the need for better STI testing, but also a lack of education surrounding sexually transmitted infections.
Respondents believed they could become infected with a sexually transmitted infection through kissing (20%), trying on underwear (13%), toilet seats (12%), swimming (8%) or even sharing a drink (8%).
Whilst this does vary depending on the STI type, its highly unlikely you would catch a sexually trasmitted infection from these factors. For example it is impossible to catch Chlamydia through any of the factors listed above. For more information on catching specific STIs you can visit the NHS website.
STIs and honesty
The participants in the survey provided a unique insight into the taboo nature of STIs and why, despite society’s greater understanding and awareness towards STIs in general, we're still not entirely honest about them.
We asked participants who had previously had an STI how honest they were with their sexual partner. Over two thirds (67%) of those respondents claimed that they told their sexual partner that they had an STI.
Of those respondents that had previously had an STI but not told their sexual partner, we wanted to know more about what stopped them from being honest.
When asked why respondents kept their STIs a secret, the leading reason, with 32%, was that they felt ‘too embarrassed’ to admit this to their sexual partner. Being scared of their partner's reaction was also high when it comes to the list of reasons at 22%.
This could link to the high percentage (22%) of respondents that listed cheating being the reason they did not disclose this information to their partner. Interestingly 12% also stated that they ‘don't feel it's a big issue’ to disclose their STI diagnosis with sexual partners.
However, despite there still being a percentage of participants choosing to not share their STI results with their partner, this number has significantly dropped since we last undertook this research. In fact, in 2017, a whopping 72% of respondents did not share with sexual partners that they had tested positive for an STI.
With more honesty around STIs comes the conversation around how comfortable Brits are having sex with an infected partner. Previously, in our 2017 survey, we found that 36% of respondents would still be happy having protected sex with a partner despite any positive STI diagnosis.
This has however changed, with the UK no longer showing such an open view towards sex and STIs. In fact, 39% of Brits said they would not have protected sex with my partner if they had an STI.
When looking at those willing to still have sex with a partner despite a positive STI test, the most likely age group to be open to the idea were Gen Z at 23%. Relationship status also provided insight with those in a relationship (18%) more willing to have sex despite the test result, as opposed to singletons (16%).
Sexual partners and STIs
Asking partners questions about sexual history can be tricky, especially if you are in the early stages of a relationship. If you find yourself holding back when it comes to learning more about your partners past sex life, you are not alone.
Our survey revealed 40% of respondents have not asked their current partner how many previous sexual partners they have. When digging into the reasoning behind this, 29% say they simply do not want to know how many previous sexual partners their current partner has had.
Suggesting that for many Brits, ignorance is bliss when it comes down to their partners sexual history.
Males have been found to be the least interested in knowing how many people their partner had previously slept with. When asked, 31% of males agreed that they don't want to know, in comparison to 26% for females.
Other reasons for not asking partners sexual history included being scared of their partners reaction (11%) and feeling that ‘It's not my business to know’ (32%).
However not everyone is happy to stay in the dark when it comes to their partners sexual past, with 18% of Brits agreeing that they would consider ending a relationship if they were not happy with the number of sexual partners their current partner has had.
When looking at the gender split for this, females are the most likely to call it quits over their partners sexual history with 21% agreeing, in comparison to 14% of males. However, this number is actually down 9% from the last time we asked the nation in 2017, with 23% of Brits previously claiming this was a relationship dealbreaker.
If reading this guide has you wondering if you might need to get yourself tested for an STI, our guide on the most common signs of STIs could help you.
If you have had unprotected sex (without a condom) you are at risk of an STI and should arrange to get tested, you can also shop with us if you need to buy condoms . See the NHS STI advice for more guidance on what to do if you think you may be at risk.
Unprotected sex also leaves you at risk of unwanted pregnancy. If you do find yourself in the position where contraception might have failed, there are a range of emergency contraception methods like the morning after pill available.
Chemist4u surveyed 2,000 brits aged 16-55+. Asking questions surrounding their sexual health, STI testing behaviours and attitudes towards relationships and STI’s to discover how the nation really views STIs.
All survey responses have been received anonymously, in strict confidentiality and in line with the 2018 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Survey data is available on request.
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