Whether you are exhibiting concerning symptoms, or are simply concerned about your sexual health, then you should book an STI test. If this is your first time getting tested, there is nothing to be afraid of. You should feel confident that you are taking control of your sexual health. Everyone’s experience with sexually transmitted infections differ. Some might suffer from painful or worrying symptoms such as blisters, unusual discharge or pain during sex, whilst others may experience no signs of an STI at all.

The first thing to do is not to consult “Dr Google” for answers. You’ll find a variety of information on sexual health and sexually transmitted infections but not all the information provided is correct and up to date.  You might come across some horror stories that may make you feel like just hoping it goes away is the best option. Spoiler: this is never the best choice. You may even come across some people advertising herbal cures for STIs that is as true as the Nigerian prince who regularly appears in your junk emails promising enough money to enable an early retirement.

Treatment for sexually transmitted infections consist of a course of medication, or further treatment depending on the STI you contracted, that can only be prescribed by a qualified medical professional. Recently the BBC reported an expose on a man who had been illegally selling STI treatment through social media. When investigated with correct medical advice on hand, it turned out that the drugs were being sold at incorrect dosages, as well as some that were no longer in use due to antibiotic resistance.

So, if you’re feeling an itch down there, or it hurts when you urinate, or you are experiencing any other genital or anal discomfort you need to book your STI test as soon as possible. Without getting tested, you will not know which infection you have contracted (and just FYI you can have more than one STI) which means you cannot receive the correct course of treatment for that particular STI.

What to expect at your STI testing appointment?

It is natural to feel worried during both the run-up and the day of your sexual health testing appointment. However, you must try and remember that the clinicians who will attend to you are all specifically trained to help with STI-related issues and testing. They are not judgemental; they have seen so many cases of warts, rashes, abnormal discharge that it is now part into their daily routine, anything contrary would be unusual to them. Your clinician will do their best to make you feel at ease and answer as many questions as they can. You may be asked for a brief sexual history, including questions such as:

  • When did you last have sex?
  • How many partners have you had in the last three months?
  • Are you experiencing symptoms or why do you think you are infected?

Depending on the STIs you are worried about, or symptoms that you detail to your clinician, you may be asked to provide:

  • Urine sample
  • Blood sample
  • Throat swab
  • Rectal swab
  • Vaginal swab
  • Genital swab

In some cases, an examination of the genital, anus, mouth or skin may be needed for the clinician to help you. Women may also be asked to provide a vaginal or cervical swab sample, as well as receiving an internal examination.

Having an STI test is a responsible and normal part of our your healthcare routine. Remember your doctor has sex too, and they know that you are doing the responsible thing in getting tested.

Anthea Morris, Better2Know


[1] Hello Clue

[2] NHS

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