What's it like to go to a sexual health clinic?

Robbie, 23, shares his experience of visiting a sexual health clinic for the first time.

My first visit to the sexual health clinic was for a general check-up. I had never been before. I had heard about them, I knew how to access them, but I had never been.

I had a new partner so decided now was the time to go and get checked. I had no symptoms or anything. Just wanted peace of mind to see if everything was okay.

I Googled sexual health clinics. It was quite simple to look that up, once you understand the lingo - so what the GUM clinic is and that sort of thing. I found that a bit confusing to start because it wasn’t just a sexual health clinic saying ‘come here to get checked’. So I had to wrap my head around that. In the end it was just a case of calling a number and getting an appointment with my preferred service.

When I arrived for my appointment I checked in at the reception and they gave me some forms to fill in. I was seen by a nurse 15 minutes later, and she was lovely, As soon as I met the nurse she made me feel at ease. Obviously going to a sexual health clinic can be quite daunting especially for the first time. I’m 23, I am pretty street-smart, I can have a conversation with people, but it’s still unknown territory, it’s something that I have never done before. She talked me through absolutely everything, which I appreciated. If you’re not aware of the processes, they tell you exactly what’s going to happen. It gives you peace of mind and made me feel a bit more confident.

Then they asked me some questions about my sexual health and my diet, if I was into any drugs or alcohol, if I had unprotected sex, that sort of thing. Again the nurse was really good at asking the questions. She did it in a way that wasn’t judgemental at all.

She made it easy to engage with her and divulge things that I perhaps wouldn’t have with another person. It felt like a safe space to talk about those things. She then asked me why I was there, had I any symptoms and things like that. I said I was just there for a checkup and she offered me all the full whack basically! All the tests, the blood tests and the urine tests - everything.

The staff really made the experience a positive one.

To get my results I was given a number that I had to phone up and get the results and you had to type in a code. It was a lot of information to take in. Typing a code felt a bit strange – I think I had thought maybe you would just phone somebody and they would tell you your results. But I can see the point in that, it’s confidentiality they’ve got in mind for that process. There’s no names, you’re not speaking to a person, just getting your test results from an automated machine. It was easy enough.

After getting my results peace of mind was the main thing. I had had unprotected sex with partners before, and I thought there could be something there because you really don’t know. Some sexual infections don’t have symptoms so I thought I might have something. So having that negative result made me feel a lot better and more confident. And the fact that I’ve gone through that process and used the service means I would be more comfortable in the future.