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27th Oct 2018

Never been? Here’s what really happens when you get tested for an STI

Dealing with a visit to the doctor or clinic to get tested for STIs is not the most pleasant experience but once you know what to expect, it can help to lessen the worry beforehand.

A lot of people find visiting a doctor or clinic to get tested for a sexually transmitted infection an embarrassing experience, but there’s really no need to be stressed or embarrassed.

The staff at the clinics are used to testing for all different types of infections and have seen people of all ages and all walks of life come through their doors. It’s their job – they won’t judge.

But what actually happens once you go passed the waiting area? Well, we’re here to answer the questions many of us have had before our first check.

1. Who can get tested?

You can get tested regardless of gender or age and as with any doctor’s visit, doctor/patient confidentiality applies.

2. What will they ask?

Most STI clinics based in hospitals DO NOT ask for your name, instead you are given a unique number. However private clinics and GP surgeries may need to ask for your name and contact number in order to provide you with your results at a later stage.

Again, any details you give will be kept confidential.

Your doctor or nurse will also ask you some questions in relation to both your medical and sexual history.

Be ready to answer questions such as: when you last had sex, whether you’ve had unprotected sex, if you have had any symptoms and why you might think you have an infection.

3. What’s next?

Going on the information they have been provided with, the doctor or nurse will decide what tests they think you need. These may include you providing: a urine sample, a blood sample, an examination of your genital area, and swabs from the vagina.

4. Different tests

If you are being tested for chlamydia or gonorrhoea, this usually requires only a urine sample. HIV and syphilis require blood samples, while a test for herpes is usually only carried out if you have sores on your genital or anus.

For women if you have no symptoms you may only need a blood test and a urine test. If you have symptoms such as vaginal discharge, itch or soreness you may need to have swabs taken from the vagina and the cervix.

5. Results

Some of the results and treatments may be available that day, but for most others, you will have to wait a week or two and you can arrange with the staff how you would like your results to be delivered to you.

6. Treatment

Many STIs can be treated with antibiotics. If you have tested positive for a STI, it is vital, if possible, to tell your sexual partner, or any ex-partners, to get tested and treated too.

Protect yourself

The best way to protect yourself from getting or passing on an infection is to use a condom when you have sex.

Remember, always buy condoms that have the CE mark on the packet. This mark symbolises that the condoms have been tested to the highest European safety standards.


For more information about the Sexual Health Services provided by the HSE click here. You can also click here for more information about sexual health and contraception.