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Health and wellbeing

Sexual health

As children get older, the way they express their sexual feelings changes.

These days children are exposed to sexual images at a far younger age, and in more places than ever before, such as music videos, websites and social media. It’s therefore not surprising that sometimes children’s sexual development can seem out of step with their age.

The NSPCC has lots of information about healthy sexual behaviour, including how to keep children safe, warning signs and what to do if you’re worried about sexual abuse. 

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

As the name suggests, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections that are passed from person to person through sexual contact, including vaginal, anal and oral sex.

It’s worth remembering that many people with STIs do not get symptoms. A lack of symptoms should not prevent someone from getting tested – the earlier an STI is diagnosed the sooner it can be treated.

Common types of STI include:

Protecting against STIs

Condoms work really well in stopping most STIs from being passed from an infected partner to another. Although they do not offer 100% protection, when used properly, condoms are extremely effective.

Free condoms are available from contraception clinics, sexual health clinics and some GP surgeries.

Where to get tested

  • A sexual health clinic or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic – find local STI services.
  • Some community contraceptive clinics – find local contraceptive clinics.
  • Some sexual health services – call the national sexual health line on 0300 123 7123 or Worth Talking About (for under-18s) on 0300 123 2930.
  • Some GP surgeries.

Some pharmacies can also test for chlamydia.

Find out where you can get a free chlamydia test through the National Chlamydia Screening Programme (under-25s only).

Further information

NHS Choices offers information and advice about sexual health and answers some of the common sexual health questions.

Childline has further information and advice aimed at young people about sex and relationships.


Getting help


Run by the national sexual health charity FPA, they offer help and advice on a range of sexual health topics including contraception, STIs, unplanned pregnancy and sexual wellbeing. Includes a directory of where to find free contraception or STI testing and treatment clinics.

National Sexual Health Helpline

Run by Public Health England, the helpline offers free confidential information and advice on all aspects of sexual health. Available Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm.

0300 123 7123

The Centre

Offers contraception, gum and HIV services across Devon.

If you are concerned that a child is being abused please call

0345 155 1071

or email

If it’s an emergency call 999