Getting tested and treated for sexually transmitted infections is relatively accessible and confidential. Most infections can be cured, and it is important to make sure you are clean and safe after sexual activity.
Ideally, you should visit a clinic a couple of weeks after activity, but feel free to go before then to talk to the clinicians and find out what you should do.
The best bet in Cambridge is to visit the NHS clinic, Lime Tree, on Mill Road. They specialise in sexual health and provide tests and treatment for many STIs.
You can make an appointment or just turn up to a drop in clinic. Try not to feel embarrassed or uncomfortable. The staff at these clinics are professional, and are not going to judge you. It is their job to make you feel at ease and comfortable at the clinic. Feel free to take someone with you if it would make you feel more relaxed.
Everyone is welcome at a sexual health clinic, regardless of age, gender or sexual orientation.
When you’re there
You will be asked for your name and some contact details. You don’t actually have to give your real name if you don’t want to - but if you do, it will be kept confidential. This means that the clinic will not inform your GP of your visit without first seeking permission from you. It’s best to give accurate contact details so that the clinic can let you know about test results and treatment if necessary.
You can specify if you’d like a man or woman nurse or doctor, but there is a chance you’ll have to wait longer for there to be one available.
The doctor or nurse will decide which tests they think you need. They should explain why they chose them but if they don’t, feel free to ask.
The tests could involve:
a urine sample
a blood sample
swabs from your urethra (the tube where the urine comes out)
an examination of your genitals
swabs from the vagina, if you have one
Getting your test results
With some tests, you can get the results and your treatment on the same day. For others, you may have to wait a while. If you test positive, you will be asked back to the clinic to talk about your results and your treatment. Many STIs can be cured and for those which can’t, like HIV, there will most likely be treatment available. The clinic can advise you on these, and in addition will be able to put you in touch with a counselling service.
Things to consider if you’re trans
You do not have to declare whether you are cis or trans on the registration forms given to you by the receptionist. You can wait to disclose this to your clinician in private. However, some clinics have gender-specific waiting rooms. Feel free to give the clinic a call before you go to discuss their facilities and your requirements. They should be accommodating, but you can take someone with you if it would make you feel more comfortable.
When you see your doctor, it can be a good idea to discuss any genital surgeries you may have had, as this may affect what samples are taken. It’s helpful to be honest so that they can give you the best care possible. When discussing with whom you’ve had sexual relations, the clinic should be okay with you just stating “a person with a penis/vagina”. You don’t have to go into details about them if you’d rather not.
Have a look into which screenings you think would be appropriate to you beforehand, then talk to your clinician about this.
Information about common STIs: http://www.fpa.org.uk/help-and-advice/sexually-transmitted-infections-stis-help
Unfortunately clinicians may be unaware of specific risks to trans people or may categorise you in a way that fails to address some risks. It is helpful to have an understanding of some of things you may be at risk of, such as HPV, HIV and pregnancy, before attending to ensure you get the best care possible.
If you have a womb, your doctor should ask you whether there’s a chance that you could be pregnant. If you think you should be asked that question, and you’re not, mention this to your clinician as it could affect your treatment. Unfortunately, most clinics ask you to record your gender as M or F; let your clinician know if you worry that your genitals may not correspond to a cis person of that gender, or to those they might expect based on your appearance.
It’s valid to feel scared of doctors and the medical process. If a clinician reacts badly to you, this is unacceptable and illegal. The law, the NHS and the General Medical Council (the body which regulates doctors) are clear and adamant that there should never be any discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. If it happens to you and you want and feel able to, you can make a complaint immediately.
If visiting a general clinic makes you too uncomfortable, there is a trans specific sexual health clinic in Soho called CliniQ, the details are on the Useful Contacts page under Sexual Health.
Check out this page on CUSU LGBT+ for lots of info about sexual health: