Talking about sexual health
Looking after your sexual health is just as important as looking after your general health.
You can talk to your normal GP (doctor) about sexual health stuff or you can visit your local sexual health clinic. They are sometimes called GUM clinics which is short for genitourinary medicine clinics.
Sexual health services are free and available to everyone no matter what your sex, age, ethnic origin and sexual orientation.
It can be embarrassing to talk to a doctor or nurse about sexual health. But don’t forget that they are experts and they talk about this stuff all the time!
They give advice, tests and treatments to people of all shapes, sizes and sexualities. No one will judge or lecture you. They’ll just think you’re smart for taking care of yourself.
Why should I go?
Your GP or sexual health clinic are there to offer support and services to help you look after your sexual health.
They can give you free contraception, check-ups, tests and treatments as well as advice and info so you can make the best choices for you.
You can have a check – often called a sexual health screen, if you’ve had unprotected sex and you’re worried you might be pregnant. Or you might be worried you have an STI, or just want to make sure you don’t.
If it’s over five days since you had unprotected sex, you can talk to the doctor or nurse about your options.
Your GP or sexual health clinic can also support and help you if you’ve been forced or persuaded into a sexual situation you are uncomfortable with.
They may refer you to a sexual assault referral centre (SARC). If you want to go directly to one of these, you can find your nearest service using the NHS website. They can also help you tell the police what happened, if you choose to.
How can I find sexual health services near me?
Booking an interpreter
If you need any support in your appointment, for example, if you need a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter or other communication support, you should try to book your appointment in advance if possible and let the clinic or surgery know what you need.
It’s their responsibility to make sure deafness doesn’t get in the way of you accessing important sexual health information or services. Don’t be afraid to tell them what you need.
If you go to a walk-in session rather than booking in advance, they may not have immediate access to communication support. But there are things that can help. Ask your doctor or nurse to face you when they talk, ask them to speak clearly and don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat or simplify things if you miss what they say. Write things down if you find that helps.
If you have an interpreter with you, don’t be embarrassed to talk in front of them. The interpreter is a professional and they are there purely to pass on the information. They aren’t there to judge you, and definitely won’t tell anyone else.
What to expect
Your experience will be slightly different depending on whether you go to your GP or if you visit a sexual health clinic.
Your GP will already have some information about you. But when you visit a sexual health clinic for the first time, you will usually be asked to fill in a form. This will ask for your name and contact details, and other information. You don’t have to use your real name if you don’t want to.
It’s fine to take a friend, partner or family member with you for support if you want to.
Then you will have your appointment with a doctor or nurse.
You may be asked some personal questions, about your medical and sexual history, or about your contraception methods or your sexual partners.
This is completely normal and it’s best to be as open and honest as you can. They are there to help, not to pry.
If you need to be tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), you may need to give a blood or urine sample.
Visit Brook for more information.
Will the doctor tell my mum or dad?
All the information from your visit will be treated confidentially. This means that your personal details and any information about tests or treatments will not be shared with anyone outside the sexual health service without your permission.
However, if your health worker is worried that you are in danger of being hurt or abused they may want to pass information on to other services to help support you and keep you safe.
They should talk to you about this before any information is shared. If you are worried about confidentiality then ask your doctor before you speak to them. Then you will know where you stand.
Even if I’m underage?
If you are under 16 years of age, your details will still be treated confidentially. No one 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 and are asking about sexual health or contraception, health workers are likely to be more worried about you having sex.
If they think you are at risk of harm, they may want to contact other services. But they will talk to you about this during your visit.
Frequently asked questions
This really great article is by a sexual health expert who answers your most common questions about visiting a sexual health clinic.
Need some more help?
Would you like more help, or do you want to ask a question? you can email us (firstname.lastname@example.org).