Going for a test to check if you have a sexually transmitted infection (STI) can seem daunting, but it's really nothing to worry about and a really good thing to do regularly or if you suspect something might not be quite right.
Check out what to expect when you visit a clinic, or the doctors, to be tested, below.
Where can you get an STI test?
You can get tested for STIs at your local sexual health clinic and at some GP surgeries.
Sexual health clinics and GP surgeries are still open during the ongoing Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, however, drop-in services may have changed.
To get an appointment at a sexual health clinic you must phone ahead to book an appointment. You may receive a consultation over the phone or video first but if you need to be seen in person you will be. To find out your nearest sexual health clinic's contact details visit NHS Inform.
What will happen at my appointment?
The doctor or nurse will ask you some questions about your sexual activities. Although it might seem embarrassing, they see lots of people every day in similar situations, and it's important to be honest, as your answers will help the nurse or doctor give you the right advice and/or treatment.
When going to a sexual health clinic you do not have to give your real name or address. Nobody can phone the sexual health clinic and ask if you have been recently either. You will need to give them contact details such as a mobile number or an email in case they need to contact you about a result.
The doctors and nurses at a sexual health clinic are specially trained to help you not feel embarrassed or awkward during your visit and offer a discreet service. This means that they will be prepared to help you, for whatever reason that you visit the sexual health clinic.
If you visit your GP and are aged 13 or over, the doctor is not allowed to discuss anything you tell them with your parents. Your parents are not allowed to have a look at your records or discuss anything you may have brought up with your doctor, this is against the law in the UK.
How are STI tests taken?
Most tests will either involve a swab from the vagina or penis, or a urine sample.
For some tests, such as HIV, a blood sample also needs to be taken.
In some cases, a swab may need to be taken from your throat or your bottom.
Swabs can be a little uncomfortable, but they won't be painful, it will be over in seconds and often you are even given instruction and can do them yourself.
What to do if you can't get to a sexual health clinic
Sexual health clinics are open during the coronavirus outbreak, however they might be operating different opening times. Take a look at the NHS Inform website to find out more.
If you can't get to a sexual health clinic, there is a free HIV self-test kits that you can order online to do at home.
For more information about self-testing for HIV visit the HIV Test Scotland website. Their website offers instructions online and a chat service available throughout the day in case you have any questions or want advice.
Unfortunately, there are currently no free services for online STI testing kits in Scotland.
When will you get the test results?
Most results take a few days to a week or two to come back.
Some clinics can offer same-day testing if you have symptoms and some STIs, such as genital warts, can be diagnosed there and then just by how they look.
Are STI test results accurate?
Most negative results are highly accurate.
Some infections, such as HIV, Syphilis and Hepatitis C can take up to three months to show up in tests, so if it has been less than three months since you had unprotected sex it's a good idea to pop in and get tested for these again at the three-month mark.
What if you get a positive test result?
Almost all STIs are now treatable with an antibiotics. The clinic will give you advice on what to do next, and can offer advice as to how you can let your current and previous partners know so they can head in for a test. Taking the antibiotics and letting your past or current partners know is protecting your sexual health and theirs.
It is a criminal offence to willingly have sex or engage in sexual activities with someone when you know you have an STI and have the intention of passing it on. You can face serious consequences if you do this.
The only way to successfully prevent STI’s is by using barrier-method contraception; such as condoms, dams and femidoms. These methods of contraception create a physical barrier which is the only method that helps prevent the spread of STI’s when used correctly.
For more information about contraception and STI's, visit our sexual health information page.