Nearly half a million people are diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the UK each year, according to a report from the BBC. But experts warn that the number of cases may be higher, as infections can often be unknowingly passed from one person to another. Recorded cases of STIs are on the rise, despite education and greater awareness of testing options. Young adults, the BBC says, are the most vulnerable to STIs, as they are most likely to practice unsafe sex with multiple partners.

Because many STIs do not produce symptoms, many people unknowingly contract diseases and spread them to others.

Chlamydia and gonorrhea, two of the most common STIs, rarely produce symptoms. If left untreated, both diseases can lead to infertility.

STI Testing and Treatment through the NHS

Getting tested for STIs and practicing safe sex can help prevent the spread of these infections. Those living in the UK can get tested through an STI clinic. Through the NHS, STI testing can be performed at a genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic, which specialises in sexual health. These clinics also provide treatment for STIs, many of which are curable. Most clinics require an appointment, but some are drop-in. Clinics accept everyone, even those under the age of 16. For patients 16 and younger, services remain confidential.

At-home and private STI testing is not as readily available in Britain as it is in the US, but privacy isn’t an issue when visiting a local STI clinic. Patients are asked for their name and contact information, but they are not required to give their real name. Still, information is kept confidential and a patient’s GP will not be notified of the visit unless given permission to do so.

STI clinics test for diseases in a variety of ways, including:

  • Blood samples
  • Urine samples
  • Urethra swab
  • Vaginal swab
  • Genital exam

The type of test performed will depend on the STI. Gonorrhea and chlamydia typically require a urine or swab test. Syphilis and HIV typically require a blood sample. A genital exam may be performed to check for public lice.

During a patient’s appointment, questions will be asked about the person’s sexual history to determine which tests are needed. Clinics typically test for:

  • Genital warts
  • Gonorrhea
  • Chlamydia
  • Syphilis
  • Trichomoniasis
  • HIV
  • Public lice
  • Scabies

In some cases, test results are available the same day. Treatment may also be administered the same day as testing. Some results take a few weeks to come in. In this case, patients are asked how they would like to receive the results.

Typically, STIs can be treated with antibiotics.

Practicing safe sex is the best way for patients to protect themselves from STIs and prevent the spread of disease. STI clinics can provide patients with condoms.

While GUM clinics offer STI expertise, other testing and treatment options are available through the NHS. Patients can visit their general physicians or a local pharmacy. There are also community contraception clinics that offer help as well as the national sexual health hotline (0300 123 7123).

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 829 other subscribers.

Follow us on Twitter