Secrets of a sex doctor

Picture of sexual health doctor Penny Goold

Sexual health doctor Penny Goold talks about her job working at one of Britain's sexual health clinics.

Why did you choose to work in a sexual health clinic?

"It’s a very rewarding job, as many sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are relatively easily treatable. People can feel embarrassed or upset and angry, and I can usually help them. When I see warts or ulcers, I just think: 'Right, I’ll sort that out.' Even with STIs that we can not 'cure' such as HIV, we have some excellent treatments available now so that people can live long and healthy lives. So it's much better to know about it than ignore it. That's why I love my job."

Do you really put cocktail umbrellas up men’s penises?

"No, we don’t! This is a great myth. Every poor bloke has been told by mates that we put cocktail sticks up their penises, but it doesn’t happen. Many years ago the swabs looked a bit like upside-down umbrellas, but now we use a minimally invasive swab or even just a urine sample if you have no discharge. So don't be put off. It could be as simple as a 'pee in a pot' and one blood sample to test for STIs."

If I need to talk to a sexual health doctor but I don’t want a bloke poking around me, what can I do?

"A lot of men don’t want another man examining them or even talking to them about sex. Some feel the same about women doctors. Most clinics now offer you a choice of a male or female doctor or nurse, although you might have to wait a little longer until the appropriate person for you becomes available."

If someone delays coming in, what problems could that cause?

"Many things will get worse if they’re left untreated. Some cause long-term problems that aren’t curable (but can be treated). Having one STI increases the risk of picking up another. You also increase the chance of passing the infection on if you don’t get it sorted. If it stings when you pee it’s definitely best to come in, but it’s a good idea to come in for a check-up anyway. It’s the only way to find out if you’re carrying an infection that has no noticeable symptoms."

What should I do if I think I’ve got a problem?

"Check yourself regularly, and if anything changes down below (especially if you have discharge or sores on your penis), or you’re not sure about anything, go to a sexual health clinic. Call the Sexual Health line free on 0800 567 123 (or textphone 0800 521 361 for people with hearing impairments), or phone your local NHS sexual health clinic."


If you are worried about your health have a look at the Man MOT, a confidential online surgery where you can talk to a GP anonymously.


Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the UK. An expert gives advice on who's at risk, where to get tested and what the treatment involves.

Media last reviewed: 09/07/2015

Next review due: 09/07/2017

Page last reviewed: 20/01/2014

Next review due: 20/01/2016


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