Friday, 3 June 2011

Visiting an STI clinic


Getting tested and treated for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is straightforward and confidential, and most infections can be cured.
A sexual health or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic specialises in sexual health, and gives tests and treatment for many STIs. To find your nearest clinic look in the local phone book under Sexual health, or use the sexual health service search. Or call the fpa helpline on 0845 122 8690.
You can make an appointment to go there, or sometimes there is a drop-in clinic (which means you can just turn up). You might feel embarrassed but there’s no need: the staff at these clinics are used to testing for all kinds of infections. It’s their job, and they won’t judge you. They should do their best to explain everything to you and make you feel at ease.
You can go to a GUM clinic whatever age you are, and whether or not you have symptoms. If you're under 16, the service is still confidential and the clinic will not tell your parents.
If they suspect that you or another young person are at risk of harm, they might need to tell other healthcare services, but they will talk to you before they do this. 
Your details 
When you go to a GUM clinic, you will be asked for your name and some contact details. You don’t have to give your real name if you don’t want to, and if you do it will be kept confidential. Your GP won’t be told of your visit without your permission.
If any test results are not available during your visit, the clinic will need to contact you with them, so give them the correct contact details. They will check how you want to receive your results: they can usually be given to you over the phone, in a text or in an unmarked letter.
Answering some questionsYou will see a doctor or a nurse, and they'll ask you about your medical and sexual history. Be prepared to answer questions about your sex life, including when you last had sex, whether you have had unprotected sex, whether you have any symptoms and why you think you might have an infection.
You can ask to see a female doctor or nurse if you prefer but you might have to wait longer than you usually would, until one becomes available. 
Having the tests 
The doctor or nurse will tell you which tests they think you need. They should explain to you what is going on and why they are suggesting these tests. If you are not sure about anything, ask them to explain.
The tests might involve:
  • A urine sample.
  • A blood sample.
  • Swabs from the vagina (which you can usually do yourself).
  • An examination of your genitals.
Testing for chlamydia and gonorrhoea usually requires only a urine sample. Testing for HIV and syphilis needs a blood sample.
Tests for herpes are not usually done unless you have sores on your genitals or anus. In this case, a swab will be taken from a sore. This will be uncomfortable for a moment.
Getting your results
With some tests, you can get the results (and treatment if you need it) on the same day. For others, you might have to wait for a week or two. If this is the case, the clinic will check how you would prefer to receive your results.
If you test positive for an STI, you will be asked to go back to the clinic to talk about your results and your treatment. Many STIs can be cured with antibiotics. Some infections, such as HIV, have no cure but there are treatments available. The clinic can advise you on these, and can put you in touch with a counsellor.
If possible, tell your sexual partner and any ex-partners so that they can get tested and treated as well. If you don't want to do this, the clinic can usually do it for you (it’s called partner notification, and the clinic will not reveal who you are).
Using condomsThe best way to protect yourself from getting or passing on an infection is to use a condom every time you have sex. The clinic can give you some condoms so that you can practise safer sex.
Always buy condoms that have the CE mark on the packet. This means that they've been tested to high European safety standards. Condoms that don't have the CE mark won't meet these standards, so don't use them.  
Bear in mind that if you have had an STI once this does not make you immune to it: you can get the same infection again. 
Other places to go for helpSexual health and GUM clinics have the greatest expertise in tests and treatments for STIs. But you can also go to:
  • your GP,
  • a young people’s service (call 0800 567123),
  • a community contraception clinic (Find sexual health services), or
  • a pharmacy.
They may be able to offer tests for some infections, and advise you where to go for further help. 

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