For lots of young people, the idea of visiting a sexual health clinic may be a step into the unknown.

It might be something that you find daunting or embarrassed about, but the good news is it really isn’t as scary as you think!

For young people who are sexually active, accessing regular testing is a great way to stay in control of your sexual health.

Sexual health clinics in Highland are managed by Highland Sexual Health, and many GPs also offer sexual health services.

Check out the sections below to find out what to expect when you visit a sexual health clinic.

What will they ask me?

Talking to a health professional about your sexual health can be a little scary but remember, they aren’t there to judge you or your sex life.

When you visit a clinic, the staff will ask you questions to help them understand the services that you need. They’ll also ask about any medications you’re taking to make sure that any tests, vaccines or treatments they provide won’t cause problems.

For example, if a nurse or doctor asks you for details of your sex life, such as what kind of sex you are having, it is normally to determine what risks there might be for STIs or pregnancy, or what kind of test you might need.

If you are under 16, you can still access confidential sexual health services, either through your doctor or a sexual health clinic. They may ask you a few more questions than they would ask a person over 16, but this is because they have a professional duty of care to make sure you are safe.

The only reason a medical professional may have to break your confidentiality is if they feel that you, or somebody else, is at risk of harm or danger. They should always discuss their concerns with you and tell you what actions they may need to take first, before telling someone else about your visit. If they do need to talk to somebody about your safety, this is because your wellbeing is their priority and they cannot tell your partner, friends or parents about your visit.

STI testing

Sexual health clinics can offer testing for a full range of STIs.

Many STIs don’t have obvious symptoms, so it’s important to get tested if you have had unprotected sex.

When you come to a clinic, the staff will talk to you about your visit, and ask some questions to identify which tests you may need.

Different STIs require different tests but will usually involve giving a blood or urine sample, taking a swab or having a visual examination by a health professional.

There are also different timeframes involved, check out the STI page for details about testing and timeframes for different STIs.

Getting your test results may vary from service to service. Some will take a few days, some may take longer so check how long you have to wait for your results with the person that does an STI test with you.

Most clinics will ask what the best way to contact you is, so that they can get in touch with your test results. You may have the option of getting a phone call, getting sent a text message or being emailed. You can state your preference when you have your test done too.

If you have symptoms of an STI, or a test gives an immediate result, a nurse or doctor can give you treatment then and there to start taking. However, sometimes you may need to wait for a positive test result, which can take a couple of weeks to come back. before they will give you treatment.

A sexual health advisor can support you with any questions you may have about your test results, STI information, and help and support around accessing and taking treatments.

Remember - condoms, femidoms and dental dams are the only methods of contraception that protect you against STIs as well as pregnancy so we advise to always use one of these methods.

Pregnancy testing

You usually have to wait 3 weeks after having unprotected sex before you can take an accurate pregnancy test.

When visiting a GP or a sexual health clinic for a pregnancy test, they will ask you details about when your last period was and when you had sex. Try to give accurate answers as this will help determine whether a test will be accurate and, if you are pregnant, how far into the pregnancy you are.

They will also ask you how you feel about the possibility of being pregnant, whether you have anyone that can support you with your decision making and about your relationship with your partner. This is because they want to make sure you are safe and supported.

You will usually have to take a pot to the bathroom to pee in so that the test can be done back in the room with whoever you are seeing. This is so the professional can give you an accurate result and can support you if you are upset over the outcome of the test.

If the test confirms you’re pregnant, the healthcare professional will give you information about your options, including continuing with the pregnancy and abortion.

It is important to remember that getting a positive test result may be a big surprise – you do not have to make a decision about continuing with the pregnancy then and there and support is available.

Cervical screening

Cervical screening (sometimes known as a smear test) tests the health of the cells found on your cervix.

It is important to find and remove abnormal cells which can lead to cervical cancer.

Cervical screening is offered to people with female genitals aged 25 and over. This is because it is very rare for anyone under the age of 25 to develop cervical cancer

Check out the NHS Choices website to find out more about cervical screening.

Partner notification

If you have tested positive for an STI, it is important that any previous sexual partners are informed so that they can get tested too.

Informing partners allows them to access treatment if necessary, and reduces the chances that they will pass an infection on to others.

We know that talking to partners can be awkward, especially if you’re not currently in a relationship with them, and support is available.

If you were tested at a sexual health clinic, a sexual health advisor may contact you to offer support to tell your partner.

If you take up this offer, it’s helpful to give the sexual health advisor accurate contact information for the partners you have been in sexual contact with.