About Sexual Health Checks
Ever had sex? Then there may be a chance you have picked up one of the many infections that exist today. Unfortunately, there are some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that don't give you any symptoms until maybe years later.
Where can you get a sexual health check?
It's possible to get a sexual health check up at:
- A sexual health or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic
- Some GPs
- Some community contraceptive clinics
Ideally, visit your nearest sexual health or GUM clinic. Your GP may be able to do some of the tests, but you will receive more specialist advice and treatment at a GUM clinic.
Are GUM clinics confidential?
The clinic is confidential and will not give any information about you to your GP, your parents, your family, your college, your employers or anybody else.
Will the clinic staff disapprove of you?
Staff at the clinic do not disapprove of patients and all staff are used to dealing with every issue and situation that can arise.
What happens in the examination at a GUM clinic?
You will always be examined.
Men - the doctor will:
- Have a brief look at your skin
- Check your groins for lumps
- Use a gloved hand to feel your testicles and penis (which isn't painful)
You may be asked to use your fingers to 'milk' your penis downwards, to see if there's any discharge and the clinic will look at this under the microscope.
If you have had anal sex, or if you have any anal symptoms, the doctor will do a rectal examination using a gloved finger.
Swabs will be taken from your penis, and possibly your throat and your bottom, so that the lab can 'culture' them for germs. Again, having a swab taken doesn't hurt.
Women - the doctor will:
- Examine your skin below the waist
- Look at the outside of your genitals
- Insert a small instrument called a 'speculum' that lets them see the inside of your vagina, including your cervix
- Take some samples from inside the vagina, which doesn't hurt. These will be examined under the microscope, or sent off to the lab
- Do an internal examination with gloved fingers.
If you have any anal symptoms, they will also take a rectal swab.
They may take a throat swab - especially if you have any symptoms that may have been caused by oral sex, such as a sore throat.
Tests that are looked at under a microscope by the clinic staff can be performed there and then. It is the swabs that are sent off to the lab and will take a few days to 'culture'. So to get those results, you'll be invited back within a week or you can call up and get them over the phone. Blood test results always take a few days.
If results are positive, remember clinic doctors are nearly always going to be able to cure it – often by giving you a carefully chosen antibiotic. They should also discuss the importance of contacting previous partners, which is essential in terms of stopping the spread of infections.
How do you get seen at a GUM clinic?
Start by calling a clinic and asking them if you'll need an appointment or if you can just walk in.
To get the number of your nearest GUM clinic, you could call your nearest hospital and ask them to put you through to the GUM clinic. Alternatively, you could call either of the following two numbers and ask them to tell you where your nearest clinic is:
- Sexual health direct, run by the FPA: 0845 122 8690
- NHS Direct: 0845 4647