Staff are well aware of how
embarrassing it can feel to come to a clinic. That is why they are specially trained to
give you care and attention of the highest quality. It vital that you are treated with
dignity and respect. Your individual needs should be met with great sensitivity.
GUM clinics operate under
strict guidelines of confidentiality set down by Parliament. You therefore should be able
to confidently approach them with any concern safe in the knowledge that staff will work
hard to protect your interests.
A GUM clinic plays a
vital part in controlling the spread of sexually transmitted infections. Not everyone who
uses them will have such a condition but many do. It is an unfortunate fact that some
infections can be present without any obvious signs or symptoms. So it is quite common for
someone to have an infection and not know anything about it. Without treatment a few of
these infections (though not all) can lead to more serious health problems. By this stage
it can be very difficult to sort out complications that might have occurred. It is for
this reason that you may be asked about current or previous sexual partners.
The more people who are given
the opportunity to have a check-up the less chance there will be of picking up an
infection in the first place. It is also of little value in having tests and treatment if
a regular partner is not assessed at the same time. This may only lead to re-infection and
the problem returns and possibly worsens.
Clinic Health Advisers are
present to help you talk in detail about your situation. Not only can they help you to
better understand what has been going on with your treatment and care but they can assist
you to work out the best way to approach sexual partners. It is crucial that you feel in
control of any decisions taken and that the best solution is found. One should never feel
pressurised into giving information against your will.
So how can partners be encouraged to attend a clinic?
Health advisers will help you to work out how far to go back in
assessing which partners should be seen. This will vary according to the condition you
have and your own individual circumstances. It may be helpful to rehearse with them how to
phrase things or introduce the topic into the conversation. You may be given a printed
piece of paper called a contact slip to pass on to a partner. This
should be taken to their local clinic and will greatly assist them in getting the correct
tests and possibly treatment.
The health adviser may ask you if you would be prepared to give any
details of partners. This can be as much as you know or are prepared to reveal at this
stage. We appreciate that talking to partners past and present about infection risks can
be extremely hard. Understandably some choose not to do it and this is where clinic staff
can help. Partners can be contacted discreetly by them or from another GUM clinic without
divulging your details. You may not have full information about them but progress can
sometimes be made with incomplete facts.
Sexually transmitted infections can often be treated easily and
effectively if they are dealt with swiftly. Many people with some infections will not
realise they have a problem. GUM clinics exist to treat individuals with tact and
sensitivity. The Health Advisers in particular can help in seeing that partners are
invited to attend. This approach has enormous potential in not only safeguarding the
sexual health of the individual but ensuring the risk of encountering infections is