Getting tested for STIs can seem like an embarrassing or anxiety-inducing procedure. Our sexual history is not something we often talk about to strangers, and the image of sitting in a sexual health clinic waiting room can still be stigmatised. Then there’s the actual test, getting swabbed and waiting anxiously for the results. What if my parents or housemates find out? Many people worry so much that they postpone getting tested, or just don’t go at all.
The reality is that sexual health clinics are confidential, professional and understanding. The topic of sexual health is opening up and people are realising that there is nothing embarrassing or shameful about looking after their own health and their health of their sexual partners.
However you may feel about getting tested, it’s certainly better then silently suffering with an STI and all the harm that can cause yourself and others.
If you don’t have any symptoms of an STI, then surely it means you don’t have one. So you don’t need to be tested, right?
Not everybody gets symptoms from STIs. In fact, Chlamydia is known as the Silent STI. Around 70% of women and half of all men don’t experience symptoms from Chlamydia . In addition, Gonorrhoea can be invisible in half of all women and around one in 10 men . It can take time for an STI to start exhibiting noticeable symptoms, and all the while they’re still infectious. That’s partly the reason STIs spread so effectively – people have no clue they’re infected, and so don’t take proper precautions to protect themselves or their partners.
If you’re sexually active with multiple people, getting tested regularly is the best bet for your health. If you think you may have contracted an STI but aren’t sure, going to the sexual health clinic is absolutely the right thing to do, even if you aren’t experiencing any symptoms.
Some clinics require appointments, but others are known as ‘drop-in’ clinics which means you can walk in and wait to be seen. There are no restrictions on age, gender or symptoms. It’s confidential, even if you’re under the age of 16.
Understandably, most people want to keep their information as private as possible when dealing with sensitive issues such as their sexual health. But there is some information you will need to give at the clinic in order for you to be treated.
You can give a fake name if you want to, although your real name would be kept confidential regardless. However, you do want to give accurate contact information to the clinic. This is because the clinic will want to send you the results of your test via phone call, text or post. If you give them a fake number or address, you won’t find out your results!
When you get seen, you’ll be asked various questions about your sexual history. Don’t think of this as invasive. The doctor or nurse needs this information in order to understand your situation and prescribe a test or treatment. They’ll ask whether you’ve experienced any symptoms that may indicate a particular STI. They’ll also probably ask questions such ‘when is the last time you had sex’, ‘did you use protection’, and ‘has your sexual partner been tested’?
The test is going to vary based on the information you give and what the doctor or nurse wants to check for.
Chlamydia & Gonorrhoea Tests: You may have a swab sample taken of a possibly infected area, such as inside the vagina. There is also a urine sample test.
Herpes Test: The herpes test requires that you are experiencing sores or blisters which are then sampled with a swab.
Syphilis Test: Syphilis can be detected through a blood test. A swab can also be used to test fluid from sores.
HIV / AIDS: Detected through a blood test, or more recently through a saliva sample.
Depending on the test administered and the resources available to the clinic, you could get the results on the same day or you may have to wait to be contacted within 2 weeks. If the results do come back positive for an STI or multiple STIs, you’ll be told to return to the clinic. There the doctor or nurse will discuss the nature of the infection and your options going forward.
The clinic may encourage you to tell current and previous sexual partners about your test result. You should do this, but if you don’t think you can some clinics offer a service known as Partner Notification . You can give a name and contact number of a sexual partner, and the clinic will let them know on your behalf. Your name and details will not be disclosed.
We offer a completely anonymous, free to use text service that informs your partner they should get tested for chlamydia and where they can find treatment. Simply type in your partners phone number and we will send them a text on your behalf. This avoids the awkwardness of a one to one conversation and more importantly informs your partner so that they can make the safest, best decision for themselves.
For chlamydia, antibiotics are the standard course of treatment. Doxycycline and Azithromycin are both very effective treatments for Chlamydia when taken as the prescribed course.
Although the herpes virus cannot currently be cured, antiviral treatments help significantly during outbreaks. One is the antiviral drug Aciclovir, which when taken during an outbreak speeds recovery and reduces discomfort. There is also Aciclovir Cream which reduces the length and severity of cold sores when applied.
1. NHS Conditions: Chlamydia | NHS
2. NHS Conditions: Gonorrhoea | NHS