Sexual Health

STIs: tests and results

You can get tests for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) at special clinics or at GP surgeries. STI clinics are often able to give people the results of their tests within a few days but it may take a little longer from the GP.

Some people don't go to their GP for a check up because they are concerned about confidentiality (whether their information will be kept private). In particular they worry if their information could be released to insurance companies, financial institutions or potential employers.

Some women we talked to had been tested for STIs such as gonorrhoea, syphilis and chlamydia. They described the tests as 'invasive' and 'embarrassing'. Having a swab taken was described as uncomfortable and undignified but not painful. Those who've been to clinics said that staff were reassuring, 'easy going', friendly and approachable. They explained what would happen during the consultation and none of it was scary.

Experiencing symptoms that might mean people have an STI can cause relationship difficulties. It can lead to stress and arguments, and accusations of 'cheating'.

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When test results come back negative (meaning that the person does not have an STI), the symptoms can sometimes be caused by to the contraception being used, or to a non-sexual infection such as thrush. Many of the people we talked to who discovered they had an STI considered themselves 'lucky' because they experienced symptoms and had infections that could be diagnosed and treated. Others didn't have symptoms and were only diagnosed when being treated for something else.

A woman we spoke to was diagnosed with chlamydia when she was six weeks pregnant and was told she would be unlikely to get pregnant again because of damage to her tubes.

Most people who've had a test are more aware of STIs and said that they planned to have routine check-ups and use condoms with any new partners. A woman we interviewed who had genital herpes explained that it was important to always use a condom, even in long term relationships.

Sometimes the full impact of a diagnosis was only felt years later.

With the exception of HIV, asymptomatic infections (infections that don't have any symptoms or signs) such as chlamydia can usually be detected by a test and successfully treated. One teenager described how shocked she was to discover that her boyfriend had infected her with chlamydia, gonorrhoea and genital herpes.

Last reviewed January 2016.

Last updated January 2016.

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