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How to stay safe sexually and avoid STIs

Berkshire’s Public Health team has launched a new campaign to help educate people on why it’s essential to ‘stay safe sexually’ by avoiding STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) and in particular, HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus).

The aim is for people to learn about the preventative treatments, PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), and PEP (Post-exposure Prophylaxis), which are proven clinically to help prevent HIV infection in people who are HIV negative and are available for free, including on prescription.

Through the Safe Sex Berkshire website, residents can learn how best to protect themselves against HIV infection by considering using the anti-HIV preventative treatments. Information on how to access Berkshire’s NHS Sexual Health Clinics to learn more about PrEP or PEP is also available on the website.

PrEP is a medicine people at risk for HIV take to protect themselves from getting HIV. PEP is taken after unprotected sex in cases where people may have been exposed, potentially or unknowingly, to HIV infection, perhaps by having unprotected sex or if a condom breaks during sex.

Although protecting against other STIs (such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea) is important, there's currently no cure for HIV, which is why people should take precautions. There are very effective anti-HIV treatments (antiretroviral therapies) that enable most people with the HIV virus to live a long and healthy life. Sometimes people may not be diagnosed for a long time after contracting HIV and left untreated.

The Safe Sex Berkshire website also offers information on how to organise an HIV self-test or book a confidential appointment at the clinic to talk openly about sexual health.

Further guidance on the Public Health England national HIV Prevention Campaign, can be found on the Berkshire Public Health website.