Visiting an STI clinic

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 gives tests and treatment for many STIs.

Visiting an STI clinic

You can make an appointment to go there or sometimes there's 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 sexual health clinic whether you are male or female, whatever age you are, 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 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. 

Find sexual health services near you, including sexual health and GUM clinics.

Your name and details

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 of 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.

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 questions

You 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
  • 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 to you 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 (tube where urine comes out)
  • 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. Testing for HIV and syphilis needs a blood sample.

Tests for herpes aren't 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.

Find out more about:

Getting your test 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 won't reveal who you are).

Using condoms to protect against STIs

The 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 you can practice 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. Get tips on using condoms properly.

Bear in mind that having an STI in the past doesn't make you immune to it – you can get the same infection again. 

Other places to go for help with sexual health issues

Sexual 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 sexual health service (call the Sexual Health Line on 0300 123 7123)
  • a community contraception clinic 
  • a pharmacy

They may be able to offer tests for some infections and advise you on where to go for further help. 

Further information

Does anal sex have any health risks?

How long before STI symptoms appear?

What infections can I catch through oral sex? 

Page last reviewed: 18/11/2013

Next review due: 18/11/2015


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The 6 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

TRFWSD said on 06 September 2015

What they don't tell you is that these clinics are mixed sex reception and waiting. The only services for men are sexual dysfunction as sexual transmitted disease. But women wait for many other services which are not to do with sexual health hence men are labeled automatically as impotent or diseased.
They are women's health clinics with male STD services tacked on be warned guys.

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Tazzy2 said on 23 November 2014

I am thought to have something called Bacterial Vaginosis which is NOT an STI and i am not sexually active, nor ever have been. My GP spoke of a GUM clinic doing swabs to check it was.

All this page mentions is STI's and the not giving the real name speaks strongly of stigma.

Thanks NHS choices no way will I now go but will put up with it.

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Mike123 said on 03 September 2014

I agree with Richard-69. The page re 'Visiting an STI Clinic' assumes it is a female attending. Where do blokes get their information? Hardly encouraging guys to attend a clinic

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Richard_69 said on 27 August 2014

On the web site"visiting an STI clinic" it states that females can request a female nurse or doctor.

I am male can I request a male nurse or doctor since I do not feel comfortable with female nurses and doctors?

If this is the case please could you put it on the web site since it is discrimination if a females privacy and embarrassment is taken into account but not a males.

If this not the case and only a female can request female staff is this not gender discrimination in the provision of services to the public.

I am sure a legal claim could be made for gender discrimination in the provision of services.

No wonder so few men become nurses when females can request female staff but men cannot. I am angry that the NHS discriminates against men and boys in this way.

If I was a boy I would particularly rather talk to a male doctor or nurse about my sexual history than a female.

Men do not seem to be allowed to request same gender medical staff and this seems like direct gender discrimination.

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nina89 said on 06 December 2013

hi, everything started 3 years ago with a irritation on the vulva and at the entrance of avgina and also around the anus ,lots of discharge ,burning sensation,and a few blisters dr told me i have bv got treat and was fine for 1 month and then the irritation appear in exactly the same place and also at the entrace of vagina ,and feels like a burn the intercourse is impsobile because of the pain ...during of 3 years i had 2,3 episode per years when 1 blister appear after a few days breaks and turns into a ulcer but after 1 eek is heal....and the irritation still there on all the vulva ,in the last 3 months i feel that my symptoms are getting worse i started to have again irritation around my anus like the begging ,and i have alredy 2 times a blister ....i did tests and biopsy and all came negative,i indeed will go these days and do again for all the infection and in bloood also...i dont know what to do anymore for 3 years i suffer from this and no doctor helps me .

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Pincer8 said on 10 December 2011

The article should perhaps make it clear that even if you do not give your real name and address the information collected about you, including you tests and infections, will be recorded and shared with other parts of the NHS. It is unfortunate that postive results are only ever provided either face to face or by telephone, which is often inconvenient.

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