Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections that are spread by sex (anal, oral and vaginal), and in some cases, by non-penetrative sexual contact (such as sharing sex toys, sexual touching, close skin-to-skin contact).
Some are easy to get rid of and some you can’t get rid of but you can get treatment.
Using condoms and dental dams can help to protect you against STIs. Take a look at BASHH’s safer sex advice for more information on how to protect yourself against STIs.
Symptoms: No symptoms, pain when weeing, bleeding between periods or after sex
Test: A urine sample or swab
Treatment: Easily treated with antibiotic tablets
Read more about chlamydia on the nhs.uk website
Symptoms: No symptoms, discharge from tip of the penis, yellow/green discharge from vagina, bleeding between periods
Test: A urine sample or swab
Treatment: Easily treated with an injection
Read more about gonorrhoea on the nhs.uk website
Symptoms: No symptoms, small, painless sore around genitals, rash on palms of hands and soles of feet, swollen glands or a flu-like illness
Test: A blood sample
Treatment: Usually treated by an injection in the bum cheek
Read more about syphilis on the nhs.uk website
Symptoms: Flu-like illness a few weeks after infection
Test: A fingerprick test or a blood sample, depending where you go for the test
Treatment: There is no cure but HIV can be treated and controlled with antiretroviral drugs. If you’re on effective treatment you can expect to lead a normal life and can’t pass on HIV to anyone else.
Read more about HIV on the nhs.uk website
Read more about how to prevent HIV (including PrEP and PEP) on tht.org.uk
Symptoms: Lumps, bumps or growths around genital/anal area
Test: Doctor/nurse will look at affected area
Treatment: Treatment is available to get rid of the warts, like using a cream or freezing them off. The treatment does not get rid of the virus which causes warts, but your own immune system can often cure you of the virus.
Read more about genital warts on the nhs.uk website
Symptoms: Blisters, sores around the genital/anal area
Test: Doctor/nurse will look at affected area and run a swab over any sores
Treatment: There is no cure but you can ease symptoms and stop the virus from multiplying with anti-viral tablets.
Read more about genital herpes on the nhs.uk website
Some other infections and conditions can cause similar symptoms to STIs. These can include thrush, bacterial vaginosis and genital dermatology conditions (things like dry skin or rashes around your genitals). If you think your infection is not sexually transmitted (e.g. you’re not sexually active), we recommend visiting a pharmacy or your GP in the first instance as we may not be able to treat you.
What happens when you visit for an STI test?
Entering the clinic
On your first visit you will be asked by the receptionist to fill in a registration form giving your name, date of birth, address, and contact details. All your details you give us are completely confidential. We will ask for your GP details for our records but we won’t write to your GP without your permission.
Please note: We aim to see everyone who wishes to use our services — however, we are a very busy service and it is not always possible for patients to be seen within 48 hours of contacting us. Patients will be prioritised according to clinical need. We thank you for your understanding and we apologise for any inconvenience that this causes you.
When speaking to the doctor or nurse, they will need to ask you questions that you may find personal and embarrassing. These questions are part of your assessment. It is important for us to ask these questions, as this information makes sure we carry out the relevant tests and give the correct treatment if necessary.
- Urine sample or a vaginal swab for chlamydia and gonorrhoea
- a blood test for HIV and syphilis
If you have blisters, lumps or bumps in your genital area, or think you may have, the doctor or nurse will perform a genital examination. You will not need to be examined if you don’t have any symptoms.
The doctor or nurse may take more swabs and offer further blood tests depending on your sexual history or symptoms.
We offer a ‘results by text’ service. If you choose this method of receiving your results you will be contacted within 2 weeks. If you have an abnormal result, the text message keeps your confidentiality by giving no specific details but asking you to contact the clinic health adviser. If you don’t want to get your results by text, you can choose to telephone the clinic for your results.
If you are having a sexual health check it is always a good idea for your partner to be checked at the same time. If you are found to have an infection your partner may need to be treated as well. Any untreated infections can cause serious damage to health. Our health advisers can discuss with you how to tell your partner to get checked. If you prefer they will contact partners for you maintaining your confidentiality.
Watch the below videos from The Mix for a bit more information on testing for STIs.
Visit our important information for professionals page of the website for useful links and more.