Frequently Asked Questions

General risk FAQs

I have had unprotected sex—what are my risks?

There are two potentially serious risks following unprotected sex, which means having sex without a condom or where the condom has split or has slipped off. These are unwanted pregnancy and acquiring a sexually transmitted infection (STI).


Contraceptive FAQs

My girlfriend takes the pill; do I still need to use contraception?

Not if you are in a stable relationship but if you have concerns about an STI then you would need to use protection (condoms) against this.

I'm only 16. Will you tell my parents that I have asked for contraceptive advice?

No. We would not inform your GP if you did not want us to.

Help – there seem to be so many contraception options available, how do I know which one is best for me?

We will discuss all the options available to you and will recommend the one we feel is best for you, however, we will be guided by what you prefer.

I'd prefer a long term contraceptive. What are these?

These are known as Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) methods.
These include:-
- The contraceptive implant: This is a small flexible rod put under the skin of the upper arm and which releases a hormone called progestogen.
- A contraceptive injection: This is given into the buttocks every 12 weeks.
- An intrauterine device (IUD): This is a small plastic and copper device that is inserted into the uterus (womb).
- An intrauterine system (IUS): This is similar to an IUD but this releases a hormone.

An advantage of the LARC is that you don't need to remember to take tablets every day and if you want to become pregnant or if you want to stop using them, you can have them removed at any time, except for the injection, which you will need to wait for its contraceptive effect to wear off.

I need my IUD / Coil checking, can you do that?


I'm not sure my usual contraception is right for me, can you help?

Yes – we will discuss your contraception and all the options available to you.

I think I may be pregnant

Then it is sensible to have a pregnancy test. You can purchase a test from the chemist or you can come to the clinic and we will do a pregnancy test.

I slept with someone last night and we didn't use protection, what can I do?

Pregnancy can occur if you have unprotected vaginal sex. If you do not wish to become pregnant you can attend any of our clinics, a family planning clinic, A&E, your GP or even some local pharmacists to request emergency contraception (also known as the morning after pill). This can be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex, although the earlier you take it the more effective it is in preventing a pregnancy.

If the unprotected sex occurred more than 72 hours ago it is still worthwhile attending your family planning clinic or GP as you may be eligible for other methods to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.

I've already hit the menopause. Do I need to use protection?

Yes if you are uncertain about your sexual contact and the risks of acquiring an STI.

I thought only young people need to use protection, is this true?

No – anyone having unprotected sexual intercourse is at risk of acquiring an STI or becoming pregnancy (the latter if you are within the reproductive age group)


Sexually transmitted infection (STI) FAQs

How do I know if I've got an STI?

With some STIs there may be no obvious symptoms (for example with Chlamydia around 70% of females and 50% of males do not have symptoms) and so if you feel there is a risk of infection it is best to have tests.

When should I come to be tested for an STI?

If you do not have any symptoms, then we advise leaving it at least 10 days since the last unprotected sex before coming for sexual infection tests. This is because, depending on the infection, it can take several days from being infected before the tests are able to detect it.

If you have symptoms ,however, such as burning when passing urine, a discharge (abnormal fluid) coming out of the penis or vagina, pains in the genitals, etc, we advise that you come as soon as possible for testing and that you avoid sexual contact until you have been seen and given the results of your tests.

Can you get an STI from oral sex?


My partner and I share sex toys; can STIs be passed on by these?


How confidential is the service?

Very confidential and this is governed by Statute. Hence there are strict laws that we must adhere to regarding the use, sharing, disclosure, storage and transfer of patient-identifiable information. This means any personal information you provide us with will be held in the strictest confidence.

Do I have to tell my parents I'm being tested for an STI?


How do you catch HIV?

HIV can be caught by having unprotected sex with someone who is HIV positive, by sharing needles / equipment with someone who is HIV positive and an HIV positive pregnant woman could pass HIV onto her unborn baby (and through breastfeeding) if she was unaware that she was HIV positive.

How can you prevent HIV transmission?

Use condoms (male or female) every time you have vaginal or anal sex and use a condom when giving oral sex to a man.

Avoid sharing sex toys—if you do share toys, wash them or cover them with a new condom when a new person uses them. If you have had unprotected sex with someone known to be HIV+ or you highly suspect is HIV+, you can access PEPSE (post exposure prophylaxis sexual exposure) from one of our GUM clinics or local A&E Department—if this treatment is taken within 72 hours it may reduce the likelihood of being infected with HIV by approximately 80%. It is sensible to have regular screening tests for sexually transmitted infections. (Some untreated STIs can increase your risk of being infected by HIV.)

I have some vaginal discharge; does this mean I have an STI?

Not necessarily but if this is different to what you would normally experience, for example is heavier and is associated with other symptoms such as pain, stinging when you pass urine, is itchy or has an odour then it is best to have it checked. It may be something that is not regarded as an STI but still requires some treatment. If it is something new (or even if just for peace of mind) it is best to have an STI test.

My penis has white spots on it, what does this mean?

These could be normal skin features but could also be due to a skin condition or infection that can be treated. It is best to have them checked in the clinic or by your GP.

It hurts when I pass urine, is this normal?

No. You need to be tested to ensure that you do not have a 'water infection' or STI.

How long can an undetected STI stay in the body?

They will remain in your body until they have been adequately treated and so it is important to have the tests when you may be at risk of having an STI.

Should I tell my partner that I have an STI?

Yes – it is very important that your partner is also tested and treated if you have an STI. You must not resume unprotected sexual relations until after you both have been treated.

How often should I get an STI health check?

You should have an STI health check once you start having sex, when you get into a new relationship, when you change sexual partners, or if you develop any genital symptoms in-between regular tests.

I've been diagnosed with an STI, what do I do next?

You need to receive appropriate treatment, be given information about the STI, refrain from having sex until advised safe to resume and your sexual contacts need to be seen and treated.

I'd prefer a specific gendered practitioner, can I ask for this?

Yes - please tell the reception staff that you would prefer to be seen by a doctor / nurse of the same sex as yourself. We will always try to accommodate your request depending on clinic staffing that day.

I'm not sure I have an STI, who can I talk to?

Telephone your local GUM clinic and a member of staff will speak to you and give you advice and information.

What will I be tested for?

Routine screening (testing) involves being tested for Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, Syphilis and HIV. You may of course decline the blood tests (Syphilis and HIV) although we would usually recommend you have these, however, ultimately we will only do what you happy to have done. If clinically indicated (which means we find something when we examine you) we will test for other conditions – see next question.

How do you test for an STI - Does an STI test hurt?

Males:—Normally this will involve a urine sample for Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea (urine should be held for 2 hours prior to test) and a blood sample (for Syphilis and HIV). If you have symptoms such as a penile discharge and stinging when you pass urine this usually requires swabs being taken from inside the penis – this can be uncomfortable. Depending on your sexual activity swabs may also be taken from your bottom or throat.

Females; — Generally a speculum is passed into the vagina so that we can take tests for Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea from the neck of your womb/cervix – some patients can find this uncomfortable. Those without symptoms, who do not wish to have a speculum examination, can take their own test (for Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea) from just within the vagina and a nurse will explain how to do this. Women with symptoms may also be offered other tests to include the following conditions thrush, trichomonas vaginalis and bacterial vaginosis, which require a speculum examination. A blood sample is taken for Syphilis and HIV and depending on your sexual activity swabs may also be taken from your bottom or throat.

All patients with genital sores or blisters will be tested for Herpes, which involves taking a swab from the sore / blister.

I've just come out of a long term relationship, should I get tested?

This is a matter of choice. Many people do come for tests for reassurance and prior to starting a new relationship and the clinics are happy to help.

Can I choose how I get my test results?

Yes. You can receive your results by text message to your mobile phone (which is the most popular way) or you can telephone for your results. In the latter case we will usually tell you when best to call.

Will you pass my information or results onto anyone else?

We do not pass on any information without your consent. In fact we do not routinely inform your GP about your attendance unless you have been formally referred by your GP to us and in this case we would normally respond in writing.

Do I have to pay for treatment?

No. Any treatment for infections and contraception (including condoms) provided by us are free of charge.