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Visiting a GUM Clinic

Think you've caught something? Just want a clean bill of health before starting a new sexual relationship? Maybe its time to venture down to the GUM clinic.

Am I at risk?­

Its an unfortunate fact of life that if you've had sex with someone, especially unprotected sex, you run the risk of contracting an STI (sexually transmitted infection). The very nature of sex - the fact that we're all at it - means that everyone is at risk, and whilst this is a scary thought it offers one reassurance. STIs are really nothing to be embarrassed about.

And ignoring them is definitely the wrong thing to do. If you had a bad headache, which lasted for several days, you would go to the doctors, and lingering symptoms of a sexual nature should be regarded in the same way. Untreated STIs can lead to infertility, blindness, organ damage and in extreme cases of syphilis (and obviously HIV) even death.  STI's can have no symptoms at all so it is better to get it checked out.

So its vital that if you think you may have an STI you get yourself checked out, either by your GP or if you prefer, at a genitourinary medicine (GUM clinic). Visiting a clinic can be a daunting experience. What you have to remember is that although its the first time you've ever had to visit somewhere like this, you're probably the millionth person through the door. No matter how embarrassing you think your symptoms are, nothing is going to surprise the professionals who work there.

What if someone finds out?

A big concern for many people is the issue of confidentiality and all GUM Clinics are more than aware of this. ALL material relating to your visit is totally confidential and will never be made available to anybody who shouldn't see it.

Peter Shields, at the Mortimer Market GUM Clinic in London, says that the sexual health profession is changing the way it works, and is making huge efforts "to get across the message that sexual health is equally as important as any other part of your overall health."

Peter also says that the last few years has seen a massive increase in the number of STIs diagnosed in Britain, especially amongst the young. In response to this many GUM Clinics are setting aside time specifically for young people, with some operating separate clinics for men and women, gay and straight.

What to expect

And what about the tests they offer? After discussing your sexual history with a doctor or nurse, most GUM clinics will probably recommend a full Sexual Health Screening. For this, a small amount of blood will be taken and, depending on your history, swabs may be taken if required. 

These samples will be sent away for analysis and tested for all STIs including HIV. In the unlucky event that your test results are positive you will need to be told what to do next. The GUM Clinic will have counselling staff on hand to answer your questions, detail treatments and provide support, in both the short term and, if necessary, the long term.  Results will be back within 2 weeks and the patient will only be contacted if any positives results 'no news is good news'.  any high risk patients would have a follow up appointment made for results though.

It's important that you don't jeopardise your health because you're embarrassed. If you need to visit a GUM Clinic, go, because you'll regret it if you don't.

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