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Sexual Health (young people)

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.

 

Explains why she preferred to be tested by her GP than go to the GUM clinic. (Actor)

Explains why she preferred to be tested by her GP than go to the GUM clinic. (Actor)

Age at interview: 20
Sex: Female
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There is a sexual health clinic that you can go to, where you can get your tests the same day, but I really didn't feel comfortable going there. Lots of people sort of sitting in the waiting room, you know, they know why you're there and everything, it just doesn't feel right, you feel a bit dirty and stuff. So I thought it was better to go to a doctor where I could do it privately and wait for a week for the results, I think that's the best for me and so that's what I did.

Do you still think along the same lines now?

No. I think anyone can get Chlamydia, you don't have to sleep around, you can just sleep with one person and get it and that's it, which I did. But I still think that I wouldn't go to the clinic, I'd rather go to the doctors and do it privately.  

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.

 

Explains that he was a bit worried to go to his GP for a check up because he is worried about...

Explains that he was a bit worried to go to his GP for a check up because he is worried about...

Age at interview: 22
Sex: Male
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I did try to go to the hospital once where they're a bit more discreet about, you know, how they test you and where the information goes. 'Cos I was worried about, you know, when I go in for a job, when they do medical, you know, checks and stuff they might look at that and think, 'Oh, well he's a risk'. 

 

Plus I heard something over, you know, the TV, in the media, through mortgage lenders and that check up on your medical history and if they think, you know, you're a risk they don't give you, you know... Yeah. I mean it stopped me from going to the GP for quite a while. But in the end I've, I finally decided, you know, to just go and get myself checked out 

 

'Cos I got a bit worried after reading something in one of the pamphlets that my local GP gave. I thought I might have got something, so I went and got myself checked out.

 

I mean it was embarrassing because, you know, to a female doctor and guys being guys, you know, we don't talk about stuff like that, you know, you're meant to be macho and, you know, you don't, you know, do the boy stuff.  But to actually go in to the GP and say, 'Oh I need to be checked out for this and that' she obviously checked me for testicular cancer as well, saying, you know, 'Since you're here, you might as well get it checked out'.  And I can truly say that was the most embarrassing experience of my entire life and I can remember it 'cos it just felt too weird, you know.

 

But it was important?

 

Yeah, it was important and, you know, I've got it out of the way and I was, you know, told, 'OK, right there's nothing there. Your call'.  "cool'.  

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.

 

Describes her experience of going for a check up at the local GUM clinic. (Actor)

Describes her experience of going for a check up at the local GUM clinic. (Actor)

Age at interview: 20
Sex: Female
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I made an appointment and just went in and they take swabs and I don't remember if they peer inside but probably. And then there is the HIV one, and I can't really remember, but I think there was a needle involved' In fact, yeah I think they definitely took some blood. I can't really remember very well, it wasn't particularly scary. I mean you just grit your teeth and '

You saw a nurse at first and then she went through it with you?

Yes, she told me what they were going to look for and then they did all the tests. I can't remember feeling worried particularly, it was fine and it didn't even take that long.
 

Sarah decided to go and be tested for STIs in general not just Chlamydia. She was also reassured...

Sarah decided to go and be tested for STIs in general not just Chlamydia. She was also reassured...

Age at interview: 20
Sex: Female
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Okay, well when I went for the Chlamydia test I was told to, I think it was a on a stick, and they just told me to go to the toilet and basically, use it as if I was using a tampon and then I think that was about it and then take it out and then I had to put it in a plastic folder and then bring it back.
 
It was a swab.
 
Yeah, a swab.
 
Okay.
 
It was very easy and that was all I had to do for that one.
 
And for the other two tests, for the other ones.
 
The other one I had someone else doing it so I had to get changed and lie on like lie on one of those beds and have my feet in the air.
 
For another swab.
 
Yeah.
 
That’s all they need.
 
Which they did. Yep, but they did everything. 
 
Okay. That’s also for a Chlamydia test.
 
Yeah, that was all for the Chlamydia and everything, that was for everything.
 
Okay.
 
That was when I went and had everything checked out so it was Chlamydia and everything else and then that’s, I also had my blood tested as well.
 
When you say everything, what do you what do you mean by everything? I mean you had chlamydia, gonorrhoea, AIDS, all of those things.
 
Syphilis, yeah.
 
Syphilis. Okay.
 
And then also when you have someone else have someone else doing it, I also think they sort of check down there and they have a feel to make sure everything feels okay as well, which I, I think is probably quite a good idea probably better than you doing it yourself because they have an idea of what they’re looking for and what they’re feeling for.

 

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

 

Describes how the possibility of having a STI placed strain on her relationship.

Describes how the possibility of having a STI placed strain on her relationship.

Age at interview: 25
Sex: Female
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I did experience before Christmas some problems with stomach pain and erratic bleeding and I went back to the clinic and explained this to them and they said have I got a new partner?  And I was like, well no I've been with my fiance for about a year so they were quite happy and '

So when I was having a few problems I got quite concerned and it upset my partner as well because he was seeing that I was getting concerned and worried. And it was effecting our sexual relationship because I was experiencing pain during intercourse so it wasn't pleasant.  

So I went back and saw one of the nurses. I had some tests done for Syphilis, Chlamydia and a general smear test as well just to check and get everything checked to make sure I didn't have a sexual transmitted disease, which was quite scary. I had the tests done, my fiance was outside in the car, got in the car, I was quite upset, I explained to him that because of the symptoms that I was having that they presumed that it was very possible that I did have an infection.  

So I talked to him about it, he was a bit shocked and he said 'well there's nothing wrong with me' and I said 'well I might have something wrong with me and I'm going to have to wait for the test results to come back and maybe it's a good idea if you go and get some tests done as well'.  So he went the next day to a sexual health clinic and had the same tests done as me, which wasn't very pleasant for him. But it was hard; it needed to be done because then we both were in the same situation of have I got something? Has he got something?  

We sat down a couple of days later because the subject kept on coming up and we were having arguments and he was saying that I'd been unfaithful and I've given him something and it's not from him so it was obvious that it was me. We had arguments about all sorts. We also, we sat down and we said this is silly, we need to talk to about this properly and we asked each other about how many sexual partners we have had and what methods of protection had we used. 

And I explained to him that I had so many sexual partners and I've always been on the Pill or on the injection. But on top of that I've always used condoms as another form of protection to look out for myself because I've always been quite clued up on sexual diseases and how they are transmitted so I've always been very, very careful.  

When I spoke to my partner he had less sexual partners than me but he hadn't been as careful as I had. So he then realised that it could also be him that's giving me something. So we kind of both felt guilty and I was blaming him and he was blaming me.  It was very difficult but it helped talking to him. I couldn't have not told him that it is possible that I had an STD because being in a relationship it wouldn't have been fair if I'd been carrying something and given it to him. And he would have been none the wiser. So we got everything sorted out, I got my results back.

It didn't take too long, it wasn't too long. I waited 10 days for one set of results to come back and they came back clear. So I phoned him at work and told him. And it was a great relief because we kind of presumed that if mine came back clear for Syphilis and Chlamydia then his should be clear as well. He got his results back a couple of days after mine and his were clear. And then I got my smear test through 2 weeks before Christmas and that was clear as well.  

But it was a great weight off our minds but we still should have, I feel we still should have discussed that in the begin

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.

 

Talks about the symptoms she was experiencing and that in a way she was lucky to have contracted...

Talks about the symptoms she was experiencing and that in a way she was lucky to have contracted...

Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
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I was working, and in the middle of the day I say, I can't work anymore, and I went directly to the Emergency, and at the beginning they thought I had a urinary infection, and I told them I couldn't have a urinary infection, so they told me to go to the Family Planning. And I went to the Family Planning and they told me that I had Chlamydia, and I mean after this, now, when I'm thinking of it, I mean it was Chlamydia only. 

I mean in some way it was lucky because, you know, you take antibiotic for two weeks and that's it, but it could be worse, I mean, it could be something else. It was ' and this make me understand that no, after the second time you are not safe, you know, you still need to wear condoms

How long did you have this pain before you went to the Emergency Department in the hospital?

I was waiting for five days because, I mean the pain is progressive, it's like little by little you feel more and more and, you arrive at one point that you can't walk anymore and I was bleeding. Yeah, I couldn't walk anymore and after I felt the pain for five days and the fifth day I was bleeding like if I had my period, but the thing is I had my period one week before, so I thought something wrong is happening, that's why I rushed to the Emergency.  
 

Explains that she discovered she had Chlamydia only because she went for a check up for something...

Explains that she discovered she had Chlamydia only because she went for a check up for something...

Age at interview: 22
Sex: Female
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I had Chlamydia which I didn't know about and I had warts and that's the reason I went in. I caught genital warts from somebody.

How old were you?

I was seventeen and I went in and they did a full screen and I had Chlamydia as well, it must have been from the same guy so I was very peeved to say the least.

You went because you discovered you had warts, so there was something there?

They were itching so I thought oh okay, and I didn't really want to go to my GP because that was somebody that I knew too well I think, so I found out that there was a place in the next town that I could go and I did it myself, I hopped on a bus and went. 

I had to take some time off school so... there was one friend that I told and she had a car and she sometimes dropped me off because I had to go back a couple of times.

And did you have anything at all that could have been associated with Chlamydia?

No.

So was it the genital warts that'?

That was the reason I went in.

But you have just had Chlamydia?

They did the full screening and they said 'oh something else has come up now' and I didn't even know about it, I'd never even heard of chlamydia and they gave me a leaflet and everything and I thought well it's a good thing I did have something with symptoms.

So in a way you were lucky?

Yeah, I do count myself as lucky because it was something mild and it's something you know, that doesn't affect me now, but it could have been.

But they sorted out Chlamydia?

Yeah, they did a full screening.

Okay and they gave you the antibiotics?

Yeah, and that cleared it up straight away. I felt like I'd been an idiot and it was just stupid of me for being lax you know, and since I've made sure that you know, there's absolutely no contact before the condom went on you know because you think well, the most important thing is to make sure that he doesn't ejaculate you know what I mean, and you can have as much contact then, and that's something I think that I wasn't really aware of as much, I was more concerned about not getting pregnant, you know at that stage, and then after that things changed.

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.

 

Talks about contracting PID and Chlamydia and of being told that her chances of conceiving again...

Talks about contracting PID and Chlamydia and of being told that her chances of conceiving again...

Age at interview: 18
Sex: Female
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When I fell pregnant with [daughter], well just before I fell pregnant, yeah I only slept with him once and I fell pregnant, I fell pregnant with [daughter] and he give me an STD which was PID and then it turned into Chlamydia and I told him about it and I said look you need to get checked out, and then at that point we didn't know I was pregnant and I slept with him again, I slept with him twice, the once and then the time after.

The first time was when I conceived the second time was when he told me he had got cleaned up and I got it again and I was pregnant with [daughter] and I caught it again and when I found out I was pregnant I had to go to the clinic and they told me I had Chlamydia again and that my tubes were damaged and my chances of conceiving were 20% after.

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.

 

Since having genital herpes she always uses a condom with her long term partner. Played by an actor.

Since having genital herpes she always uses a condom with her long term partner. Played by an actor.

Age at interview: 20
Sex: Female
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I've been with him, it will be going on two years, in April. So I thought only out of respect I should tell him. Do you feel you have to wear a condom?

Oh, I always do. I always do, yeah. I'm 'safe sex anyway. Even though I've been with him for years, it's just something I do.

Mm. So that minimises the risk? 

Yeah, because they say about shedding, but I also read, in the organisation that after about three or four years the risks of passing it on without any symptoms is very, very low. And well I've had it for four years or so now.

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

 

Talks about her initial reaction to being diagnosed with type 2 herpes. Played by an actor.

Talks about her initial reaction to being diagnosed with type 2 herpes. Played by an actor.

Age at interview: 20
Sex: Female
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When we come back off holiday I went straight to the clinic, and they done the tests and I got the results that it was that' They looked and said, "Yeah, it looks like it more than possibly could be that", but they needed to do a swab first.

And the day I came back - the next day I went straight to the' and good thing that I did because they wouldn't have been able to do the test if I didn't go straight away when the blister's still there. And I went straight and they saw it; they took the swab which was - that was painful as well. And then they invited me back to collect the results. 

So I came back, I think a week later, for my results and then they said that it was genital herpes. If I want to go and see the health adviser, which I'd done, but it's so long ago I really can't remember what he said on anything. But I don't think I paid too much attention to any of it. I kind of went, "Oh, okay", and put it to the back of my mind and then that was it. And then four years later I suppose I'm ready to talk about it now. Because I was so young I think I kind of just pushed it to the back of my mind and I didn't, I didn't think or worry about it. Because when you are younger it is easier to, to just block it out...

So did they say it was herpes type one or two, did they say?

Well type two because it- it would only have been type two, because the person who gave it to me, he never ever gave me oral sex. It was always straightforward sex, and he never had any symptoms

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.

 

Was shocked to be diagnosed with several STIs at the same time. Played by an actor.

Was shocked to be diagnosed with several STIs at the same time. Played by an actor.

Age at interview: 20
Sex: Female
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When did you become aware that you had chlamydia and gonorrhoea was it at the same time as the herpes, or?

Yeah, when I went back to get my results, I was just like - I can't believe what's actually happened. Yeah, he had given me all three. 

It must have been quite a shock for you.

Well considering that I'm, that I was only sixteen and I had only ever had one partner before which was my boyfriend for two years, and I actually lost my virginity to him. So I never knew about sexual diseases, or anything, and the first ever guy I went out with, after this person I broke my virginity to, he done that to me. So - sex hasn't always been at the top of my favourite list. I haven't always had good experiences with it - so'

So, were you treated for chlamydia and gonorrhoea at the same time?

Yeah.  I was on antibiotics for all three, so that was pretty hard for me, and I was going through it on my own. My mum didn't know, obviously. My cousin, she obviously knew at the time. Which is why I think I kind of just blocked it out because I didn't want to be aware that all of these things was happening to me because I wasn't a dirty person. This was my boyfriend, someone that I trusted, and I was with him for quite a few months before anything happened, which gave him the opportunity to go and get tested or anything and he didn't.

In a sense it could have been a good thing that I got herpes, because if I didn't I could have been walking round with chlamydia or gonorrhoea for a very, very long time. And my biggest fear is not ever being able to conceive children. So if I'd been walking round with both of those things, I suppose it can leave you infertile, you know, because I weren't very sexually active after I broke up with this boyfriend, so how would I ever have known?

Last reviewed January 2016.

Last updated January 2016.

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