Sexual health means more than being free of sexually transmitted infections or avoiding an unwanted pregnancy. It means having the confidence and skills to ask for the sex that makes us feel good.
It also means respecting our partners and taking responsibility for their sexual health as well as our own.
Those of us with sexually transmitted infections that cannot be cured (such as HIV, herpes or hepatitis B and C) can have healthy, happy sex lives and good sexual health if these infections have been diagnosed and are being treated.
If someone with HIV is being successfully treated not only does it mean better health for that person, but much less chance they will pass the infection on. HIV drugs lower the level of HIV in the body, making that person less infectious.
Where do I go?
Good sexual health depends on regular check-ups. These will make sure any sexually transmitted infection (STI) is quickly diagnosed and treated. Most people get checked at a sexual health clinic (sometimes called a GUM clinic), usually part of a hospital.
You can go on your own or with a friend or partner and you don’t need to be sent by a doctor. It’s a free and confidential service, and staff should be friendly and not judge you. ‘Health advisers’ are clinic staff who aren’t doctors but you can talk to them about a wide range of things to do with sex and relationships. You can choose which clinic you go to.
Some people prefer to get checked by their GP (family doctor) if the surgery offers this service (if not, you’ll be referred by your doctor to a clinic). Choose wherever you feel most comfortable.
When do I go?
How often you should be checked depends upon how many people you have sex with. At least once every six months is a good idea for people without a regular partner and who have casual sex. A check-up more often than every six months is a good idea if you have lots of sexual partners. If you get any symptoms that may be an STI (eg, sores, inflammation, discharge), go to a clinic straight away and don’t have sex until given the all-clear.
A check-up is a good idea before having sex at the start of a new relationship (especially if a couple are thinking about not using condoms). A sexual health screening should also include an HIV test.
How do I find a clinic?
For more about getting a sexual health check-up and to find local clinics use our clinic finder.
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