Sexual health FAQs

This section provides responses to commonly asked questions about your visit to the clinic and what to expect.

I have had unprotected sex—what should I do?

There are two serious consequences of having unprotected sex (ie sex without a condom or where the condom breaks or slips off). These are pregnancy and acquiring a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Pregnancy can occur if you have unprotected vaginal sex. If you do not wish to become pregnant and have had unprotected vaginal sex you can attend any of our clinics, a family planning clinic, your GP or even some local pharmacists to request emergency hormonal contraception (otherwise 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. There is another form of emergency contraception (IUCD) that can be used after unprotected sex so if more than 72 hours has passed it is still worthwhile attending your family planning clinic or GP as you may be eligible for this to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.

STIs can be passed on from person to person through oral, vaginal and anal sex if a condom is not used. If you haven't got any symptoms (eg burning when passing urine, discharge/abnormal liquid coming out of penis or vagina, pelvic pain, etc) we advise leaving at least 10 days since the last unprotected sex before coming to our clinic for sexual infection testing. This is because, depending on the infection in question, it can take several days from being infected before our tests are able to detect it. If you have symptoms, however, we advise coming to the clinic as soon as possible and to avoid sexual contact until you have been seen.

Please note we cannot reliably exclude you being infected with HIV until you test three months from the last unprotected sex. If however, you experience symptoms such as fevers, prolonged flu-like illness, swollen lymph glands and a rash it is advisable to attend the clinic for HIV testing regardless of whether it has been three months since your last unprotected sex and to avoid sexual contact until you have been seen. Likewise for other viral sexually transmitted infections such Hepatitis B or C, we cannot reliably rule out the possibility of being infected with these infections until you test six months from the last unprotected sex.

Language difficulties?

Please let us know in advance when booking your appointment if you need an interpreter so we can arrange this for you.

What personal details do I have to give to register?

Some patients are reluctant to provide us with their correct name, address or contact details. We advise that you provide these details as we often need them to book you investigations (eg ultrasound scans), refer you to another hospital specialist or contact you to inform you that you have an infection.

How confidential is your service?

Confidentiality is a fundamental component to the running of any sexual health service. 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 will be held in the strictest confidence. Your sexual health clinic patient notes are stored within the sexual health clinic and kept separate from general medical notes used in the main hospital. Computerised information about our patients is coded and only staff within the clinic are able to access identifiable information such as your name or address.

Who will I see when I come?

When arriving at the clinic you will first need to register with reception. The receptionist will ask you to complete a registration form, provide you with your own unique clinic number, and create a set of notes using this number. The doctor or senior nurse will then take a sexual history from you. This often includes quite personal questions about why you have come to the clinic, any genital problems, information about your last few sexual partners and the type of sex you have. He or she may examine you and will advise you which tests are recommended. You may be advised to see a Health Adviser—this is routine if you have been diagnosed with an infection, have been sexually assaulted, are under 16 years of age, require short-term counselling or are worried and wish for further information regarding your sexual health. Health Advisers can help you notify your partner(s) if they have been at risk of infections to encourage them to come in for testing and treatment.

Can I see a doctor of the same sex?

Please ask at reception if you would prefer to be seen by a doctor of the same sex as yourself. We will try to accommodate your request depending on clinic staffing that day.

What will I be tested for and how?

  • Males—chlamydia, gonorrhoea, non-specific urethritis (NSU), syphilis and HIV (unless you decline). These tests usually require swabs being taken from inside the penis (and your bottom or throat if required), a urine sample and a blood sample (for syphilis and HIV).
  • Females—chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and HIV (unless you decline). Women with certain symptoms may also be offered testing for thrush/candida, trichomonas and bacterial vaginosis. You may be required to give a blood sample (for syphilis and HIV) or sometimes just a urine sample—however, we often require a speculum to be passed into the vagina so that we can take swabs from the neck of your womb/cervix. Swabs from your bottom or throat may also be required.

How long will the clinic visit take?

A recent audit at one of the main clinic sites estimated the average clinic visit to take 1 hour 30 minutes. However some individuals will be required to stay longer (eg if you have an infection that needs treating).

How do I get my results?

Some provisional results (gonorrhoea, NSU, bacterial vaginosis, trichomonas and thrush) may be available at the end of your consultation. If you are found to have an infection on the day, treatment is provided. All of your final results will be ready in 7 to 10 working days. There are several ways of collecting these results:

  • Receive results by text message to your mobile phone—we recommend this option where possible. Most patients will receive their text message within 7 working days. If you have not received your message by two weeks please phone the results line on 020 3315 6699. All our messages are discreet—we never use names of infections or use your clinic name. If your sexual health screen was normal you may read 'All your results are negative'. If you are found to have an infection you may read 'Please return to the clinic for treatment'— then the clinic hours will be given. If we need to discuss something with you, you may receive 'Please phone the results line or Health Advisers'. If you don't understand the text message, phone the results line with your clinic number for clarification. Some results cannot be texted.
  • Ring the results line on 020 3315 6699. You require your clinic number to access your results:

    • John Hunter Clinic for Sexual Health: Mon, Tue, Thu, 10–11am
    • 56 Dean Street: Mon–Fri, 1-2pm
    • 10 Hammersmith Broadway: Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri, 9–10am
  • Attend the clinic in person during opening hours. No appointment is necessary.

Do we have to pay for treatment?

Treatment for sexually transmitted infections and contraception (including condoms) are provided free of charge.

Can I come for a sexual health check up when I have my period?

Yes.

Do you have separate waiting rooms?

No. Our waiting rooms are unisex.

Will you inform my GP?

We do not routinely inform your GP. However, if he or she has formally referred you to us, we may respond in writing.

I’m embarrassed!

We recognise that some people do feel embarrassed about sex but you really don't need to be. All of our staff are professionally trained to deal with most situations that can arise. They are non-judgmental and respect your privacy and dignity.

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