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What happens if I go to get tested?

There's no shame in being tested for STIs - it's a responsible, adult thing to do.

The process of testing will be similar no matter where you go to be tested for sexually transmitted infections.

However, different things may happen depending on where you go for your test.

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What is confidentiality?

All NHS staff are bound by rules of confidentiality. This includes clerical workers as well health professionals. So whether you are attending your GP, a pharmacy, hospital or sexual health clinic, no-one is allowed to talk to others about you or your visit. A record of your visit and treatment will be kept but can only be viewed by the people who need to see it in order to help you, for example at your next appointment. Information may be shared with other team members in order to ensure you have the best care and advice. This would be explained to you and would only happen with your consent. Sexual health clinics will not share information with your GP without your permission.

Visiting a sexual health clinic or service for the first time

Sexual health clinics keep separate health records. They will not share details of your test or the fact that you've been there with your GP or other health professionals (unless you agree to this).
The fact that you've been tested and any results will not appear on your normal medical records.
You'll be asked to fill out a form giving some details about yourself. You can give a different name from your real one if you prefer and you don't need to tell the clinic who your GP doctor is.

Getting tested at a GP surgery

As with visiting a sexual health clinic, the surgery staff will keep everything private. They won't tell anyone else unless you ask them to. 
However, the fact that you've had a test, when it took place and the results of the test will appear on your normal medical records.
You may be seen by a doctor or by a practice nurse.

When the doctor or nurse sees you

You'll be asked a few questions about your sex life. 
It's important to answer truthfully as your answers will help the nurse or doctor decide which tests you should have.
They will talk to you about what it means to have a test and why you want to be tested.
Some tests only work after you've been infected for a certain length of time and so you may be asked to come back at a later date. 
They may then:
  • give you a physical examination to look for signs of infection
  • ask you for a sample of urine (pee)
  • take a 'swab' sample from your penis, vagina or any sores or other infected areas using a thing that looks like a cotton bud
  • take a small amount of blood from you.

Getting your results

The nurse or doctor will talk to you about how you want to receive your results. 
This can sometimes be done over the phone but they may prefer that you come back in person to discuss your results.

If the results are negative

Good news!  However, in some cases you may be asked to take another test at a later date to make sure there's no infection.
You should also think about why you felt you needed a test.
For the future, check out our advice and how you can have safer sex.

If the results are positive

The nurse or doctor who gives you your results will talk to you about what this means and what you should do next.
They will also talk to you about informing any sexual partners you have or have had so that they can also be tested.
If you prefer not to contact people yourself, sexual health services can arrange to contact your sexual partners to tell them they should be tested. This is done anonymously and no details about you are revealed.
Remember, most STIs can be treated and those that can't be cured can be managed to keep you healthy.