Sexual health services are free and available to everyone, regardless of sex, age, ethnic origin and sexual orientation.
If you have a disability and have special requirements, or if English is not your first language, you should speak to the staff at the clinic before visiting.
Who offers sexual health services and advice?
Depending on where you live, services and advice may be available from:
- sexual health clinics (which can also be called family planning, genitourinary medicine (GUM) or sexual and reproductive health clinics)
- some pharmacies
- young people's services
If you are not sure which service is right for you, call NHS 111, and they will be able to advise you.
Not all service providers offer the full range of sexual health services, and it's always best to check what's on offer in advance.
You can look for a local sexual health services or advice centre on this site. Simply select the services you want and carry out a postcode search.
How it works
If you visit a sexual health service for the first time, you are usually asked to fill in a form with your name and contact details.
Depending on the reason for your visit, you should be able to visit any sexual health clinic – it doesn't have to be one in your local area. But it is best to check before going that they will be able to help you.
As part of your consultation, you may be asked some personal questions, such as your medical and sexual history, what methods of contraception you use, and other questions about your sex life and sexual partners. If you need to be tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), you may need to provide a blood or urine sample. Depending on what the problem is some women may also need to have an vaginal exam, which is similar to cervical screening, and men may need to have some samples taken from their penis.
All information regarding your visit will be treated confidentially. This means that your personal details and any information about the tests or treatments you have received will not be shared with anyone outside the sexual health service without your permission. This includes your GP.
If you are between the ages of 13 and 16, your details will still be treated confidentially, and nobody in your household will be contacted without your permission. However, staff may encourage you to talk to your parents, guardian or another trusted adult.
If you are under 13 or the doctors believe that you or another person is at risk of harm, such as physical or sexual abuse, other services may need to be contacted. However, if this is the case, it will be discussed with you during your visit.
If you have been sexually assaulted, you may be offered a specialist service. They can also help you report the assault to the police, if you choose to. For more information see help after rape and sexual assault.
It's fine to take a friend with you for support. If you need to have an examination, you should be offered a chaperone. This means that someone else can be with you when you have the examination.
Contraception and STI services
A sexual health clinic should be able to give you advice about both sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and contraception. They are sometimes called family planning, GUM or sexual and reproductive health clinics.
Their services are completely confidential. You should be able to get:
- advice on STIs and how to protect yourself
- tested for STIs
- information on different types of contraception
- any type of contraception, including emergency contraception
For some kinds of contraception, such as an implant or intrauterine device (IUD), you may need to come back for a second appointment.
Some, but not all, sexual health clinics may provide additional services, such as:
- special services for people who have been sexually assaulted
- hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccination
- cervical screening
- post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) – a short course of anti-HIV drugs for people who may have recently come into contact with HIV
Check with the clinic in advance to make sure it provides the service you need.
Some GPs and young people's services offer contraception (including emergency contraception) or tests and treatments for STIs. Advice, information and tests are free, but you may have to pay for any prescriptions.
- Get help with prescription costs
- Find sexual health services near you
- Find free online chlamydia tests for under 25s
- Visiting an STI clinic
Your local pharmacy may offer emergency contraception and sometimes can test for STIs such as chlamydia. However, this service will not necessarily be free of charge.
In some places, people over 25 can also order free STI self-testing kits online, but this may not be available in your area.
You can now order free self-sampling HIV test kits in many parts of the UK online. Visit the test.hiv website for more information or to order a kit.
Planning a pregnancy
If you are thinking of having a baby, your GP will be able to offer information and advice. Some young people's services, sexual health clinics or pharmacists may also be able to offer you advice.
Read our pregnancy and baby guide. It contains all you need to know to have a healthy and happy pregnancy.
If you are pregnant but for any reason feel you cannot continue with the pregnancy, then there are places you can seek advice, such as your GP or sexual health clinic who will refer you to an abortion service. In some areas you can ring the abortion service directly and book your appointment.
Sexual problems can affect both men and women. The causes can vary and can either be psychological or a sign of an underlying health problem.
The best way to get help is to talk to a GP or someone at a sexual health clinic. Some clinics may offer counselling services.
Sexual assault services
A sexual assault is a crime no matter who commits it or where it takes place. It can happen to men and women, and can include any unwanted sexual activity from touching without consent to rape.
A sexual assault referral centre is a place you can find help and medical care, and where you will be taken seriously. The service is free and you don't need a referral. Everything you talk about is confidential, and the service will not inform the police unless you tell them to. You can access the service 24 hours.
A sexual assault referral centre can arrange for you to have tests for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), a medicine to reduce your chance of getting HIV and emergency contraception if you need them. They can also sometimes take samples soon after the assault that can be stored in case you want to report it to the police.
It is your decision if you want to tell the police or not. If you do, you will be supported by a specially trained police officer and a specially trained doctor.
Other places that may help you are:
- your local sexual health clinic
- a hospital A&E department
- the police
- your GP
- young people's service
You can also call the Rape Crisis freephone helpline on 0808 802 9999. The helpline is open 12-2.30pm and 7-9.30pm every day of the year, providing support for female and male victims, partners, family and friends.
For more information, read about getting help after a sexual assault.
Page last reviewed: 21 November 2018
Next review due: 21 November 2021