Sexual Health – Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do you get a sexually transmitted infection?
A: Sexually transmitted infections are spread by intimate sexual contact with an infected person including sexual intercourse, oral sex, anal sex and genital touching. Not all STIs are spread in the same way and do not require sexual intercourse to be transmitted.
Q: What are the symptoms?
A: Some sexually transmitted infections have very mild or no symptoms at all. When they do appear, symptoms are varied and include itching, burning during urination, abnormal discharge, smelly discharge, pain during sex and more serious systemic symptoms. If you have had unprotected sex and are concerned, it is important to get tested whether or not you are experiencing symptoms.
Q: What do I do if I notice unusual discharge?
A: Men usually do not have a "normal" discharge like women so if you notice any kind of discharge, it is advisable to seek medical advice. In the case of women, if you find that your discharge has changed, smells differently and/or you have other changes such as itching or burning, this can be caused by a number of conditions including sexually transmitted illnesses. Testing involves a swab and/or a urine sample and most conditions with symptoms of this kind are easily treated.
Q: What ages are most at risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease?
A: There is no age limit or reduced risk from sexually transmitted diseases. The only way you can reduce your risk is by practicing safe sex. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among over 40s is growing at a rapid rate mainly because of the misconception that this is something that only happens to very young people.
Q: When should I get tested?
A: We always recommend getting tested as soon as possible to understand your starting point, catch infections early and to avoid spreading infections to sexual partners. Certain tests can be repeated after an appropriate window period discussed with the doctor.
Q: What happens during the sexual health testing?
A: You will have a consultation with an experienced doctor who will discuss the circumstances around your request for a sexual health test. Depending on this discussion, the doctor will discuss your options for testing. Some sexual health tests require a blood test while others are tested from swabs from the vagina or urethra and/or a urine sample. Blood results come back within 24 hours while swabs and urine tests come back between 2 - 5 days. A doctor will call you to explain your results as they become available and in the event of a treatable infection, they will provide you with a prescription. You will always be advised to abstain from sex or to practice safe sex while your results are pending.
Q: Do I have to give my real name?
A: At the testing stage, you do not have to give your real name. In the unlikely event that you are positive for a serious infection such as hepatitis or HIV, you will need to provide your details so that we can hand over your treatment to your GP for long term management.
Q: If I have an infection, what should I do?
A: The vast majority of sexual health screens come back completely clear and patients leave with complete peace of mind. In the event your test results come back positive, a doctor will explain what you need to do to protect your health and the health of your partner. Some infections are treatable with antibiotics and your partner will normally need to be tested and treated too. Other infections such as hepatitis or HIV will require a referral to a specialist via your GP for well-managed, long-term treatment. We will help you in this process as much as possible.
Q: Will I have to tell my partner if I have a sexually transmitted infection?
A: We recommend that you abstain from sex or in some cases, only practice safe sex until you know your results and window periods have passed. If you do have any sexually transmitted infection, it is important that your partner is tested and treated.
Q: What will happen to my results after my screening?
A: Your results will be stored on our secure patient system. If you would like a copy of your results, you can obtain these by email, by post or by collection in person. We can assign a password to your file if you wish.