- Can sexually transmitted infections (STIs) be prevented?
- Yes, but the only sure way to prevent STIs is by not having sex.
You can lower your risk by only having sex with someone who isn’t having sex with anyone else and who doesn’t have an STI, and by always using condoms.
More on prevention of infection
- Who should go for an STI test?
- Anybody who has had sex or is worried that they might have come into contact with a sexually transmitted infection should have an STI test.
- Where should I go to have an STI test?
- Ideally you should to your nearest sexual health clinic (sometimes referred to as a GUM clinic, GU clinic or family planning clinic). If you don’t live in Oxfordshire, you can find your nearest clinic at http://www.bashh.org.
Your GP may be able to perform some of the tests, but you’ll get more specialist advice and treatment at a sexual health clinic.
- Do I have to state which STI I want to be tested for?
- The doctor, nurse or health advisor will ask some questions to build up a picture of your sexual history and help decide what tests need to be done.
Quite often young people will see a health advisor before seeing the doctor to discuss any concerns, answer any questions and, if under 16 years, to explain the Fraser Guidelines. See confidentiality for more information.
- What sorts of questions will I be asked?
- What made you decide to visit the clinic today?
- When did you last have sex?
- Was that a male or female?
- What type of sex was it? Was it anal sex / vaginal sex / oral sex?
- What contraception are you using?
- Have you ever been for an STI screen in the past? Have you been diagnosed with an STI before?
- Are you on any medication?
It is important to answer truthfully, as the tests you have will be based on your answers. Ask for an explanation if you are unsure why some of the questions are being asked.
- What do the tests involve?
- The doctor will decide what tests to do based on information from your sexual history. These may include one or more of the following:
- Urine test – try not to go to the toilet for two hours before the test
- Blood tests
- Samples (sometimes called swabs) for various infections from the urethra, vagina, cervix (neck of the womb), throat or rectum
- The doctor may use something called a speculum to examine female patients
- HIV testing is routinely offered at our clinics. You may want to have an HIV test depending on your concerns and sexual history. You will probably be referred to a health advisor to discuss this issue further, answer any questions you may have and to decide on the best way to receive your test results.
- Are the tests painful?
- The swabs/tests aren’t painful but they can sometimes be a little uncomfortable. If you are worried about any of the tests, always speak to the doctor or nurse that is doing them beforehand.
- How long do I have to wait for the results?
- Some test results may be given on the day of testing, although most tests will be sent to the hospital laboratory. These results will be available one week to 10 days later.
Sometimes results are sent via text message, sometimes patients arrange to telephone us, or you may be asked to return for another appointment.
- Do I have to pay?
- All tests and treatment are free, along with condoms (latex and non-latex), dental dams and lubricants.
We are part of the Oxfordshire-wide safety c-card condom scheme that distributes condoms free of charge to those between 13 – 25 years. See safety c-card scheme for more information and to sign up for the scheme. You may collect more condoms from us on presentation of an existing card.
- What happens if I have an infection?
- First the doctor, nurse or health advisor will talk to you about the nature of the infection and what sort of treatment it will involve.
Where appropriate, we also discuss the importance of contacting current or previous sexual partners. This is essential in terms of stopping the spread of infections. You can do this on your own, or we can sometimes do that on your behalf. This is called Provider Referral.
- How often should I be tested?
- It depends on whether you are in a long-term relationship and whether you think you may have been in contact with an STI.
The main thing is to have a check-up if you think you have been at risk of infection.
Some infections may not show up immediately. It can take between two to three weeks for Chlamydia to show up and up to three months for HIV.
Some people have a check up once a year for their own peace of mind, regardless of number of sexual partners. Other people will have a check up together with a new sexual partner when they enter into a relationship.
- Where can I get contraception?
- You can get contraception from:
- A sexual health (family planning or genitourinary medicine) clinic
- Your local GP
- Another GP – where you can register for family planning services only.
- In Oxfordshire, from your school or college nurse
- Will I have to pay for contraception?
- All contraception is free on the NHS in the UK, so you don’t need to pay anything for it. If you’re not sure which method you want to use, it’s a good idea to visit a local clinic and speak to a nurse or doctor. Contraception is available from sexual health (genitourinary medicine and family planning) clinics, and from school nurses.
Condoms are available free from sexual health clinics. If you are registered with the safety c-card, you can show it to workers at clinics, youth centres, schools, colleges and GPs to get free condoms. For more information visit: Free condoms: safety c-card scheme.
- Will it be confidential?
- Special laws exist to protect personal information at a sexual health clinic, so all information you provide stays confidential.
A particular set of laws apply to information relating to those between 13 and 15 years of age called the Fraser Guidelines, which allow health professionals to prescribe contraceptive and other medication without parental/carer knowledge.
No information about your attendance here will be passed on to anyone outside of the sexual health service (like your parents, teachers, GP/family doctor, social worker) without your knowing about it and agreeing to it.
The only time this may be different is if you tell us that you or someone else is in a dangerous situation and our telling someone else may prevent you or them from being harmed. If a member of staff felt that they had to pass on information without your permission, they would still inform you of what they were going to do.
- Can I give a false name and details?
- Yes, it is fine to give a false name. However it is helpful if you remember it for when you need to return!
It is advisable to give your real date of birth and make sure the clinic has a means of contacting you in order to let you know about an infection that needs treatment.
- How do I get referred to a clinic?
- Most people refer themselves. You do not need to be referred through your GP.
- Do I need to book an appointment?
- You can choose which of the clinics in Oxfordshire to go to, and when to attend. See which clinic is right for me?
If you have symptoms like a change in discharge, or pain or sores in the genital area, you should come to one of the clinics at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford or Banbury where we can do extra tests to help find out what the problem is. The clinic in Oxford offers a specific clinic for those under 25 years old. This takes place between 3.30 – 6pm every Wednesday afternoon. No appointment is needed but it is good idea to arrive as early as possible as patients are seen on a first come – first served basis.
Booked appointments are available throughout the week. It is best to ring the clinic about 48-hours in advance of a proposed clinic visit.
If you have symptoms of an infection at other times, please phone a health advisor on 01865 231231, option 3. Outside clinic hours, the doctor on call can be contacted if necessary. If you feel it is not an emergency, other sources of information are available by going to http://www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk/ or calling 111.
What information will I be asked when I book an appointment?
You will be asked to give a name, your date of birth and if you have previously attended the service.
If you are calling for advice or information the receptionist may ask what it is to do with in order to direct you to the appropriate person.
- Can I take a friend with me?
- You can come to clinic on your own, or with a friend or family member who can be with you when you are seeing the doctors. We also encourage you to be seen on your own, even if just for a few minutes, in case there are things you need to discuss in private.
- What happens when I arrive?
- If you are coming to the clinic for the first time, you will be asked to register so that a set of notes can be made up for you with a confidential number. You can provide as little or as much information as you like but it is helpful to have a means of contacting you in case, for example, we need to let you know about an infection that needs treatment.
- What does the clinic look like?
- It looks very much like a GP surgery. There are waiting rooms, consulting rooms for the doctors and health advisors, examination and treatment rooms for the nurses and an onsite laboratory where some tests are processed on the day.
- What can I expect from Oxfordshire Sexual Health Service?
- We hope that if you attend our service you are made to feel welcome and comfortable. If you attend our service you have the right:
- To be treated with respect
- To be listened to
- Not to be patronised
- Not to be judged
- Not to be discriminated against
- What if I’m embarrassed?
- Some people do feel embarrassed about sex, but clinics are non-judgemental places and our staff are trained to discuss difficult issues and situations that can arise.
We can arrange for you to be seen by someone of a particular gender, if this will help to put your mind at rest. Please ask about this when you book an appointment or at the registration desk upon arrival.