Sexual Health

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines sexual health as a state of physical, emotional, mental and social wellbeing in relation to sexuality - it is not just the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.

Sex is a normal and natural part of human life, but can have unintended consequences. Sex without using contraception can put you at risk of pregnancy at any time during the menstrual cycle. Sex without using a condom can put you at greater risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or HIV. Did you know for example that STIs are most common in the under 25-year old’s?

The Very Brief Intervention section below is targeted towards starting conversations about sexual health and supporting access to further information and services.  The Local Support and Contact Details section lists sexual health services that are available throughout the region.

Talking about sexual health can seem awkward, but it doesn’t have to be embarrassing or complicated, and you don’t have to be an expert or have all the answers. It just about starting the conversation with those people that might need some additional information, helping them to access this information, and signposting to services that can provide more support.

Very Brief Intervention


Can I talk with you about relationships and sexual health? Do you know how to take care of your sexual health?

 What do you already know about contraception/ STIs/ HIV/ sexual health? Is there more you’d like to know about?

 Are you worried about pregnancy after unprotected sex, that is sexual activity without using contraception, or think your contraception might have failed?

You can use emergency contraception up to five days after unprotected sex. Emergency contraception is more effective at preventing pregnancy the earlier it is used. But emergency contraception is not as effective as using other methods of routine contraception.

Are you worried about STIs/ HIV after unprotected sex, that is, sexual activity without using a condom, or think the condom might have failed?

Not everyone who has a sexually transmitted infection has signs and/or symptoms. Sometimes these don’t appear for weeks or months and sometimes they go away, but you can still have the infection and pass it on to someone else.

If you have symptoms you should get an STI test. Even if you don’t have symptoms you should think about getting tested if:

  • you have recently had unprotected sex, including oral sex, with a new partner
  • you, or a partner, have sex with other people without using a condom
  • a partner has symptoms.


Emergency contraception – more information

There are different types of emergency contraception:

  • The emergency intrauterine device (IUD).
  • An emergency contraceptive pill with the active ingredient ulipristal acetate (UPA). ellaOne is currently the only brand available in the UK.
  • An emergency contraceptive pill with the hormone levonorgestrel. There are different brands.

You can get free emergency contraception from Sexual Health services and GP Practices. Some community pharmacies can provide emergency contraceptive pills for free (there may be age restrictions), or they can be bought from community pharmacies. Details of which pharmacies provide free emergency contraception can usually be found on local sexual health services websites – see links below.

Contraception – more information

Contraception aims to prevent pregnancy. There are lots of different types of contraception from methods that you use when having sex to methods that last for years. The full range is available free from sexual health services, free contraception is also available from GP Practices (may not offer all types) and some types from some community pharmacies.

STI and HIV prevention, testing and treatment – more information

There are lots of different types of STIs, and they can spread through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex, by genital contact and through sharing sex toys. Anyone who is sexually active can get one, even if you don’t have lots of sexual partners. Using condoms can prevent STIs.

Most sexually transmitted infections can be treated or managed, and it is usually best if treatment is started as soon as possible. If left untreated, many sexually transmitted infections can be painful or uncomfortable, can permanently damage your health and fertility, and can be passed on to someone else.

Free and confidential STI and HIV testing and treatment, and condoms are available from sexual health services. Some services provide postal testing kits for people without symptoms. These usually involve taking your own sample and sending it back to the service to be tested.

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. There’s currently no cure for HIV. However, treatment enables most people with HIV to live a long, healthy life, especially if they’re diagnosed soon after being infected. HIV treatment suppresses the virus in their body, and leads to an undetectable viral load, which means HIV can’t be transmitted to others. Using condoms can prevent HIV. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) can also prevent HIV – it is a pill HIV-negative people take before and after sex that reduces the risk of getting HIV – and is for people who may be at greater risk of getting HIV.


Provide the details in the Self-Care section below and offer support to help navigate and access the local services – most services have moved to initial contact via phone due to the pandemic, with some elements accessed online (see specific area for contact details/ websites).


  • The Sexual Health Helpline provides advice and information on all aspects of sexual health, call free on 0300 123 7123 (open from 9am-8pm, Monday-Friday and Saturday-Sunday 11am to 4pm). Calls will be treated with sensitivity and in strict confidence.

This website is designed to help people decide which method of contraception might suit them best and provides honest information on the advantages and disadvantages of each method.

Local Support and Contact Details