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Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are any kind of bacterial or viral infection that can be passed on through unprotected sexual contact. They can have a number of signs and symptoms however some STIs have no symptoms, and if left untreated can lead to infertility.
If you are worried that you might have a STI, you can get free advice and testing from Brook clinics, sexual health services (or GUM clinics), young people’s services, your GP or free online STI kits. Use our find a service tool to find your nearest sexual health service.
NOT ALL STIS HAVE SYMPTOMS
If you’ve had unprotected sex, especially if it’s with a new partner, you should have an STI test even if you don’t have any symptoms.Waiting two weeks after unprotected sex to take the test will provide a more accurate result. For HIV testing, you need to wait 6 weeks to take a test in order to get the most accurate result.You may also need to consider emergency contraception (you will need to seek help within 5 days of unprotected sex). Find out more about emergency contraception
Contraception and sexual health services such as Brook are free and confidential, including for people under the age of 16. Health professionals work to strict guidelines and won’t tell anyone else about your visit unless they believe you’re at serious risk of immediate harm. Find out more about Brook’s confidentiality policy.
First of all, the doctor or nurse will discuss with you what tests they think you will need and these tests will probably depend on how you answer some questions about your medical and sexual health.
These questions will include:
It is recommended that you answer these questions as honestly as possible so you can get the help and advice you need. And there’s no need to be embarrassed! The people who work in sexual health clinics have seen and heard it all. Trust us!
The STI tests might involve:
These tests and examinations are nothing to worry about and the doctor or nurse will help you to feel comfortable.
Here’s a bit more about each type of test:
When you visit the clinic you will discuss which tests you will require with the doctor or nurse. Here is an overview of which tests are commonly used to diagnose each type of STI:
Some sexual health services can do a test which produces the results during the appointment time (this is called ‘point of care testing’). Or they make take a swab and then look at the sample under a microscope in order to diagnose it during your visit. Otherwise the swab may be sent away to a lab, in which case the results normally take a week to come back.
If you have your STI test done at Brook we will let you know how you will receive your results at your appointment.
Most STIs can be easily treated with antibiotics. If you test positive for any STI, your clinic will encourage you to talk to your current partner and sometimes to your previous partners so they can be tested as well. The clinic will help you find the best way to talk to other people if you need to, and can notify even contact them for you through ‘partner notification’ and not even mention your name.
STIs can be treated as below:
Most antibiotics are safe to use with hormonal contraception (like the pill, patch, injection or implant) but talk to the person prescribing the treatment to make sure.
Tell the nurse or doctor if you are pregnant or think you may be, or if you are breastfeeding. This will affect the type of antibiotic you are given.
Side effects of antibiotics are usually very mild but may include stomach ache, diarrhoea, feeling sick and thrush.
DON’T PASS IT ON
You should also avoid having sex until you have been given the all-clear, to prevent you being re-infected or passing the infection on.
Don’t be! It’s really common to feel nervous at the thought of getting tested however, to reassure you, most infections are easily treated.
For many people, whether it’s your first time or not, visiting a sexual health clinic can cause a bit of anxiety. It may ease your worry if you know that:
When you go to get an STI test you can either make an appointment or attend a drop in service. For some drop in services you may need to wait a while.
At the clinic you will be asked your name and contact details – your GP will not be told about your visit unless you have given your permission, and your visit will be confidential unless they think you are at serious risk of immediate harm. Read more about confidentiality.
During your consultation the doctor or nurse will ask you some questions about your sexual history including when you last had sex and whether you have had unprotected sex. They will then talk you through the test.
You will be asked how you would like to receive your results, this can be via phone, text message or unmarked post. Depending on the type of test you have, some results are available straight away and you may be given treatment to take away with you on the day, but others will need to be sent away to a laboratory and you will usually be contacted in one-two weeks.
If you test positive for an STI you will be asked to come back to the clinic to talk to discuss treatment. The clinic can also notify your previous sexual partners through ‘partner notification’ if you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself.
Not an STI but STIs can trigger it.
100% FREE & CONFIDENTIAL