Sex Ed: What happens when you go for an STI check?

Sex Ed: What happens when you go for an STI check?

Visiting a sexual health clinic for an STI check may feel daunting, but there’s no need too feel fearful. The staff at your clinic are specially trained and have seen hundreds of people in your situation with similar symptoms and know just what to do. You can get tested for lots of different sexually transmitted infections; chlamydia, gonorrhoea, HIV, syphilis, Hep B and Hep C as well as examination diagnoses, for instance; warts and herpes. 

You can either make an appointment to see someone at your local Genito-urinary medicine (GUM) clinic, attend a walk-in or some services offer free postal kits for those that don’t have any symptoms. There’s also a HIV testing kit that you can order here.

With this in mind, let’s look at who can attend a sexual health clinic, what happens when you attend, what type of tests they do, how to get your results, notifying sexual partners and how to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections.

Who can attend a sexual health clinic?

Anyone can attend a sexual health clinic, regardless of age, gender, race, sexuality. For those that are unable to speak English - a translator can be booked in advance who can attend the clinic too and there may be appropriate arrangements for those with a disability.

What happens when you attend a GUM clinic? 

When you arrive at a GUM clinic, you will be welcomed by a receptionist who will ask your name and hand you a form to complete and direct you to sit in a waiting room. You may be asked for personal details, for example, date of birth, address and contact details but don’t worry - it’s all confidential - no information will be sent to your address (unless you have requested a postal kit or have requested a letter) and your GP will not be notified unless you give permission. 

The doctor or nurse will ask a series of questions about your medical and sexual history. You may be asked the following questions;

  • When you last had sex and whether it was protected or unprotected
  • Whether you have symptoms and what they are
  • If you have been in contact with someone with a sexually transmitted infection
  • If you’ve ever had a sexual health screen before

What type of tests do they do? 

You may have an examination, where the nurse or doctor will look at your genitals to check for any lumps or bumps. You may also have a blood test that can test for HIV, syphilis and Hep B and Hep C. 

For those with a penis, you may be asked to provide a urine sample or have a swab. 

For those with a vagina, you may be asked to do a self-taken swab or the nurse can do it for you. 

How do I get my results? 

For some sexually transmitted infections, they may be able to diagnose you straight away. For any tests that need to be sent away to a laboratory, they may take up to a week to come back. You can either receive a text message, phone call or letter (for those that request this method). 

If you test positive for a sexually transmitted infection, you’ll be invited to attend to start treatment. Most sexually transmitted infections can be treated with antibiotics, but for some infections, like HIV - there’s no cure, but there is still medication to stop the virus from replicating in the body.

Will they notify a sexual partner?

If you are positive with a sexually transmitted infection, you will need to notify any sexual partners that may also need testing or treating. Some people prefer to tell their sexual partners themselves, but it can also be done through the clinic confidentially. They will never disclose your name and the person will receive a phone call that says something like ‘You have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for a sexually transmitted infection’ and will be invited to come in and get tested. 

What’s the best way to prevent catching a sexually transmitted infection? 

Wearing a condom when you have any form of sexual activity is the best way to protect yourself from catching a sexually transmitted infection. Condoms act as a barrier between your genitals and sexual fluid to stop any bacteria from being transferred. There’s a wide range of condoms available - from different sizes, sensations, textures or bundles.

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