More than half of adults in the UK have never been tested for an STI, research suggests.
A nationwide survey of over 2,300 Brits by the online pharmacy Medicine Direct reveals 58% had never been checked over for a sexually-transmitted infection.
READ MORE: What's causing record rates of STDs?
While it may leave some red faced, STIs are rife.
Among those who go to get checked, more than 447,600 STI diagnoses were made in England alone in 2018, Public Health England data shows.
“The reason why so many people tend to avoid getting tested is a combination of issues surrounding the subject of sexual health,” Hussain Abdeh, superintendent pharmacist at Medicine Direct, told Yahoo UK.
“Embarrassment is by far the number one reason, many people are too embarrassed to go to a doctor or sexual health clinic to discuss or show their symptoms in person.”
Many also mistakenly believe STIs always cause symptoms, with a quarter (25%) of those asked claiming they would only get tested if something seemed awry.
“It’s worth remembering for some STIs, such as chlamydia, there can be no visible symptoms, but they can be very damaging if left untreated,” Mr Abdeh said.
“That’s why it’s so important to work regular STI testing into your life and treat it as a normal part of your lifestyle as a sexually-responsible individual.”
READ MORE: STIs on the rise among middle-aged men
Chlamydia, one of the most common STIs, does not cause symptoms in “most people”, according to the NHS.
Left untreated, the bacteria can spread to other parts of the body, triggering pelvic inflammatory disease, swelling of the testicles and even infertility.
Of those who are open to getting tested, 12% had not been in more than five years.
Living up to their stereotype of dodging the doctors’, men were found to be 39% more likely to bury their head in the sand when it comes to their wellbeing “down there”.
This contradicts research by the University of Glasgow, which found women are more likely to be in “poor sexual health”.
Inadequate sex ed at school may be to blame, with 33% saying they were never educated on it, while 20% rated the information as “poor” or “awful”.
STIs can be caught or passed on via unprotected sex or close sexual contact with an infected person, the UK charity Avert reports.
Open communication with your other half is therefore important, but should not be the only way you stay safe.
READ MORE: What Is Chlamydia?
One in 10 (10%) of those surveyed claimed they would only get tested if their partner told them they had an STI.
As if this was not bad enough, 5% said they would only discuss their sexual history after intercourse.
Perhaps most worrying of all, 2% dismissed STIs as a “complete myth”.
As part of its Fruit of your Loins campaign, Medicine Direct is encouraging people to get tested regularly and be aware of the symptoms STIs can cause.
These include unusual discharge, pain when urinating and vaginal bleeding.
Some also notice rashes, itchiness, lumps, skin growth, blisters or sores on their genitals.
“If in doubt, check it out,” Mr Abdeh said.