Think you’ve caught something? Just want a clean bill of health before starting a new sexual relationship? Need some advice? Then maybe it’s time to venture down to the clinic…
A big concern for many people is the issue of confidentiality. All clinics are aware that you might not want anyone to know so all the material relating to your visit is totally confidential and will never be made available to anybody who shouldn’t see it.
If you’ve had sex with someone, especially unprotected sex, you run the risk of contracting an STI (sexually transmitted infection). The very nature of sex means that everyone is at risk, and whilst this is a scary thought STI’s are really nothing to be embarrassed about and ignoring them is definitely the wrong thing to do. If you had a bad headache, which lasted for several days, you would go to the doctors, and lingering symptoms of a sexual nature should be regarded in the same way. Untreated STI’s can lead to infertility, blindness, organ damage and in extreme cases of syphilis and HIV even death. So it’s vital that if you think you may have an STI you get yourself checked out, either by your GP or if you prefer, at a Genitourinary Medicine (GUM clinic). Visiting a clinic can be a daunting experience. What you have to remember is that although it’s the first time you’ve ever had to visit somewhere like this, you’re probably the millionth person through the door. No matter how embarrassing you think your symptoms are, nothing is going to surprise the professionals who work there.
After discussing your sexual history with a nurse or doctor a full sexual health screening may be recommended. For this, a small amount of blood will be taken and, depending on your history, swabs will be taken from your mouth, genitals and/ or anus. Some of the samples may be viewed in the on site lab whilst others will be sent for testing for different STI’s. You may be asked to book a follow up appointment, usually a few days later, where you will be given the test results depending upon your symptoms. If your test results are positive they will explain what treatment is required, answer your questions and provide support, in both the short term and the long term, giving advice on safer sex. .
Its important to tell your partner/s; they need to know. Try to trace anyone that you might have passed the infection on to, don’t just assume that they will notice something is wrong and go to a clinic. Break the news to them as calmly as possible and tell them they need to go for tests. There’s no point in getting angry and blaming your girlfriend or boyfriend if they have infected you- safe sex is the responsibility of both partners! It doesn’t necessarily mean they were unfaithful they could have been carrying the infection for a long time without having any symptoms. the clinic may offer to contact partners for you anonymously without giving out any of your details.
If you are prescribed antibiotics, finish the full course of tablets, otherwise the infection can come back. Avoid sex and alcohol until you are given the all-clear by the doctor. Please don’t go to a GP pretending to have a chest infection when you know you’ve got an STI – chances are you will be given the wrong type of antibiotic, or a dose that is too weak.
If you are unlucky enough to be infected with something that can’t be cleared up by antibiotics (like herpes or HIV), you will need support and advice on how to cope with it. GUM clinics have counselling available and there are specialist charities and agencies that can help too. Check out the Where Can I page on this website for more information.