Getting tested and treated for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is straightforward and confidential. Most infections can be cured.
A sexual health or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic specialises in sexual health, and can provide tests and treatment for many STIs.
Visiting an STI clinic
You can make an appointment to go to an STI clinic, or sometimes there’s a drop-in clinic, which means you can just turn up without the need for an appointment.
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 sexual health clinic whether you’re male or female, whatever your age, regardless of whether or not you have STI symptoms. If you’re under 16, the service is still confidential and the clinic won’t tell your parents.
If they suspect you or another young person is at risk of harm, they might need to tell other healthcare services, but they will talk to you before they do this.
When you go to a sexual health clinic, you’ll be asked for your name and some contact details.
You don’t have to give your real name if you don’t want to. If you do, it will be kept confidential. Your GP won’t be told about your visit without your permission.
If you have tests and the results aren’t available during your visit, the clinic will need to contact you later, so give them the correct contact details.
The clinic will ask how you want to receive your results. They can usually be given to you over the phone, by text, or in an unmarked letter.
What will they ask me?
You will see a doctor or a nurse, who will 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’ve had unprotected sex
- whether you have any symptoms
- why you think you might have an infection
You can ask to see a female or male doctor or nurse if you prefer, but you might have to wait longer than usual for one to become available.
Having STI tests
The doctor or nurse will tell you what tests they think you need. They should explain what is going on and why they are suggesting these tests. If you’re not sure about anything, ask them to explain.
The tests might involve:
- a urine (pee) sample
- a blood sample
- swabs from the urethra (the tube urine comes out of)
- an examination of your genitals
- if you’re female, swabs from the vagina, which you can usually do yourself
Testing for chlamydia and gonorrhoea usually requires only a urine sample or a self-taken swab for a woman. Testing for HIV and syphilis needs a blood sample.