This page provides an insight into what to expect
if attending a GUM clinic in the UK.
It might be helpful to check out in advance if the clinic will see
you without an appointment. Many do but it will mean just queueing.
Upon arrival you will be asked to register. You can give as little
or as much information as you like without fear that your confidentiality
will be breached. This cannot be overemphasised. Special laws exist
to protect personal information held on GUM clinic users. If you
use false information it is important use the same details at future
visits. Each person is given a card with their own clinic number
on which should be brought at each visit. It may be possible in
some clinics to request you are seen by someone of a particular
A doctor, nurse or health adviser will ask some questions in order
to take a sexual history to help decide what investigations
should be done (if any). For example;
- What are you worried about?
- How many people have you had sex with recently?
- What type of sex was it?
- Were your partners male or female?
- Have you had an STD in the past?
- Are you on any medication?
- Do you suffer any allergies?
Examination & Tests
These will vary according to a persons sex and stated sexual practice
so it is important to answer truthfully any question asked if nothing
is to be overlooked. If you are unsure why some information is requested
or words are used that you dont understand then ask for a
clearer explanation. Staff should be sensitive to the fact that
many people get embarrassed and fearful about being questioned and
examined. Dont be intimidated by anyone or feel you shouldnt
complain if you are unhappy with the service. Most clinics are keen
to ensure that they offer something of quality.
Tests may include:
- Urine test (best not to go to the toilet for 2 hours before
- Cervical smear
- Swabs (ie some like tiny cotton buds used) from urethra (entrance
of water pipe), vagina, cervix (neck of womb), throat and rectum
(back passage). Honestly youll not see an umbrella-like
instrument anywhere! Something called a speculum is used to hold
open the vagina and the doctor or nurse may insert gloved fingers
at the same time. Asmall tube called a proctoscope may in some
cases be inserted into the rectum.
- Blood test for syphilis
- HIV tests are only done with a persons consent and may not be
Sometimes it is possible to tell straight away the presence of some
infections by direct observation and use of a microscope. Other
things need to be sent off to a laboratory and may take several
days for the results to become known. You may be asked to return
for further tests at the end of a specified time period before a
full diagnosis can be made. For example HIV and syphilis may takeup
to 3 months after infection to show up on a blood test. A full explanation
should be given of test results and relevant leaflets supplied to
back up any advice given.
Treatment given is free and often dispensed straightaway. A full
course of antibiotics should be taken even if the symptoms clear
up halfway through. Take note that many infections can be present
in people without them even realising.
Most clinics have a health adviser who can spend unhurried amounts
of time helping you to better understand what is going on. You may
have a lot of personal things you would like to talk through. For
example they can help when working out what to do about current
or previous partners who may need to be examined or treated. They
may ask you for details of partners and whereas this can be really
important in helping to control the spread of infections remember
that you are under no obligation to give this information. You may
however prefer they took on the responsibility to contact partners
and you can be assured that this will be undertaken with great tact
and discretion without disclosing your identity.