Protect yourself from unsafe sexual activity and find testing services for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Why safe sex is important

Sex can be part of many people’s university experience and it’s important that you protect yourself and your partner(s) from both unwanted pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).

Your sexual health

If you are worried about sexual health issues, you are advised to go to your local sexual health clinic or make an appointment to see your doctor. If you do not have a local doctor, find out how to register for healthcare.

You can also find out more about: 

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

STIs are infections that can be passed on through intimate sexual contact.

Types of STIs can include:

  • chlamydia
  • gonorrhoea
  • syphilis
  • herpes
  • HIV.

Common symptoms can include:

  • pain when passing urine
  • a rash/skin condition
  • unusual discharge from vagina, penis or anus
  • lower abdominal pain.

But many infections don’t produce any symptoms at all. The only way to know for sure is to get tested.

Go to a sexual health clinic if:

  • you have symptoms of an STI
  • a sexual partner has symptoms of an STI
  • you’re worried after having sex without a condom
  • you’re pregnant with symptoms of an STI.

Find out more about STIs from the NHS.

Important: You should go for a check-up every time you’ve had sexual contact (including vaginal, anal and oral sex), even if you have no symptoms and you’ve used protection. This is because some STIs are passed on by skin-to-skin contact, so can be passed on even when a condom is used.

Testing for STIs

Everyone should go for a full sexual health check-up as part of their normal healthcare routine – regardless of if you have symptoms. Testing every six to 12 months is recommended.

There are free sexual health products available at pick-up points across campus. These products include at-home tests for chlamydia/gonorrhoea which are done by sending a urine sample to a laboratory. You should receive results via email/text within a few days of the lab testing your sample.

Find out where the campus ‘X’ scheme pick-up points are, and how to access products.

Testing kits

If you would like a routine sexual health check-up outside of University you can order a self-testing kit online from:

If you have symptoms, or think you have been in contact with an infection, then it’s best to contact a clinic for more advice:

Or find a sexual health clinic in another area.

Protecting yourself from STIs

To protect yourself from STIs and unwanted pregnancy, have safer sex by:

  • using barrier methods of contraception
  • using plenty of water-based lubricant
  • having regular sexual health check-ups
  • talking to your sexual partner(s) about sexual health
  • seeking advice when sexual contact has been non-consensual.

Using condoms for safer sex

Condoms (male and female) are the only form of contraception that protect against both pregnancy and STIs. Male condoms can also be used for safer oral sex because they act as a barrier to prevent STIs spreading between sexual partners – this is why condoms are called “barrier methods” of contraception. Using plenty of water-based lubricant can reduce the chances of a condom breaking.

You can get free condoms, femidoms/vaginal condoms and lubricant on campus by visiting one of our free pick-up points.

Other forms of contraception protect against pregnancy but not against STIs. That’s why it’s important to use barrier methods (condoms) until you know that both you and the person/people you are having sex with have no STIs (by going for a full sexual health check-up). Healthcare providers (such as your GP, doctor or pharmacist) can also provide information on the best form of contraception for you.

See tips on how to start conversations with your partner(s) about sex and sexual health (NHS).

HIV and testing for HIV

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. You can find out more about HIV from the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) and the NHS.

Testing is usually a blood test, and it can be done as part of a full sexual health check-up or as a specific test for HIV.

THT offers a free, confidential and safe space to people within Brighton & Hove from groups most affected by HIV to discuss concerns about the virus – including testing, access to treatment and counselling support.

HIV testing

Testing for HIV is usually done via blood test, and it can be done as part of a full sexual health check-up or as a specific test for HIV.

The test looks for antibodies in the blood, which can sometimes take up to three months to appear – this is called the “window period.” However you should not wait this long to seek advice if you are worried.

You can access HIV testing from THT in Brighton or you can have a full sexual health check-up (including an HIV test) at  Brighton’s SHAC services.

If you think you are going to be, or have been exposed to HIV, you may be able to take pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) or post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) tablets. 

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) 

This is a course of tablets taken before and after sex that protects you from getting HIV. It is free through the NHS. Find out more about PrEP from Brighton & Hove SHAC.

Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)

This is a treatment that can prevent HIV infection after the virus has entered a person’s body.  PEP is an emergency measure to be used as a last resort, such as if a condom breaks or you have a ‘slip up’ from your usual safer sex routine.

It must be taken within 72 hours, but the sooner the better  ideally within 24 hours. It is free of charge, but can only be prescribed by doctors and if certain criteria are met.

Find out more about PEP from Brighton & Hove SHAC.


Chemsex means using drugs called Chems (usually methamphetamine, mephedrone or GHB/GBL) as part of your sex life.

People take part in Chemsex for different reasons  sometimes to feel less inhibited and to enhance pleasure, but other reasons can be associated with feelings of stigma and issues around self-esteem.

Is Chemsex safe? 

Chemsex can be unsafe because:

  • there is risk associated with any illegal drug use
  • it can lead to unsafe sex. If you’re under the influence of drugs, you might not use a condom which can put you at risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Find tips on reducing risks associated with chemsex.

Where to find more support about Chemsex

You can:

Find out where to get advice after having unprotected sex.

Where to find more sexual health support 

There are many local and national organisations who can provide more sexual health advice and support.

See more from Relationships and sexual health