Sexual Health Clinics

A sexual health clinic is a place you can go for help and advice about sexually transmitted infections (STI’s). Sexual health clinics are often referred to as GUM clinics (which stands for Genito-Urinary-Medicine).

At a sexual health GUM clinic you can:

  • talk to someone confidentially about your concerns and worries.
  • be tested to see if you have any infections (this is known as screening)
  • be tested for HIV
  • be treated for infections you may have picked up
  • be vaccinated against some infections like Hepatitis A and B
  • get free condoms and lubrication
  • get contraceptives and contraceptive advice
  • get PEP (post exposure prophylaxis; see below)

People often think that sexual health clinics are embarrassing places where unfriendly staff poke and prod you – this is a myth! Staff are highly trained. They understand that infections affecting private areas can be embarrassing. They will be gentle and respectful, and they are not going to make you feel bad for picking up an infection.

Some GUM clinics hold separate sessions for men, women, young people, trans people and gay men. If you choose to go to a GUM clinic, you can go to any in the country. You do not need a referral from your GP.

All services are free and tests are usually simple and painless (some tests will need a blood sample taken from your arm). You can often choose how to collect your test results – either by booking a return appointment, or you may be offered a phone call, text and/or letter. If you agree, they can also help to confidentially trace previous sexual partners who may need treatment – this is called partner notification.

Where’s your nearest clinic?

The Claude Nicol clinic is the most widely known clinic in the Brighton and Hove area. It is a centre of excellence for sexual health, staffed by a friendly team of specialist doctors, nurses and health advisers. Open to everyone, regardless of age, ethnicity, gender or sexuality they offer every possible service. You don’t need a GP referral, and best of all, it’s all completely free – even prescriptions! They guarantee you an appointment within 2 working days, as well as a walk-in service and late clinics. You will be given the choice of male or female staff, and because we have the latest technology and testing methods we can often diagnose and treat the same day. Naturally, all of the Claude Nicol services are confidential and your privacy will be respected at all times. You can even have your test results sent by text message direct to your mobile phone.

The Claude Nicol Clinic is now running various specific clinics:

Young person’s drop in for those under 20 years which runs on Thursdays between 3.30pm and 5.30pm and provides STI checks (with free treatment), contraception and referrals to other specialist services.
‘Clinic M’ which is a sexual health service specifically for gay and bisexual men. There are 8 walk in slots from 5-6pm on a Wednesday evening and appointments from 6pm-8pm.
‘Clinic W’ which is a sexual health service specifically for women every Tuesday from 5pm by appointment only.
‘Clinic T’ is a new service for anyone who identifies as trans, non-binary or gender variant (partners are welcome too). Clinics run every month.  To book an appointment ring 01273 523388.  

Sometimes we have sexual health workers from the Claude Nicol clinic available to talk to you at Allsorts. They can offer information, advice and simple testing.

THT have a tests and services finder so you can find the nearest sexual health outreach and clinics near you via your postcode

If you do not live in Brighton you can , select a GUM clinic search and enter your full or partial (first 3 digits works fine e.g  BN1) postcode and you will be shown a list of the nearest clinics.

Confidentiality

GUM clinics have very strict confidentiality rules. Everything you tell them is highly confidential and no information about your attendance is passed on to anyone outside of the GUM service (like your parents, teachers, social workers etc) without your knowing about it and agreeing to it. The only time this may be different is if you were to tell a staff member that you or someone else you know is in a dangerous situation and that telling someone else may prevent you or them from being harmed. If a member of staff felt that they had to pass on information without your permission, they would still inform you of what they were going to do.

The check-up

The doctor, nurse or health adviser will talk to you about your concerns. They will need to ask you questions about your sex life. If you are concerned about STIs they will ask about any signs and/or symptoms that you have. You might feel embarrassed, but try to be honest, as these questions help the clinic to do the correct tests. If you are not sure why the questions are being asked – just say so. You may need to have some tests. These usually involve an examination and the testing of some samples. This may mean:

  • an examination of your genitals, mouth, anus and skin to look for any obvious signs of infection
  • testing a sample of your urine
  • having blood taken (if you are being tested for syphilis, HIV, and hepatitis A, B and C)
  • taking swabs from the urethra (tube where you urinate) and any sores and blisters
  • taking swabs from the vagina and cervix (entrance to the womb)
  • having an internal examination

There are many myths about how swabs are done. A swab looks like a cotton bud, but is smaller and rounded. The swab is wiped over parts of the body that could be infected and easily picks up samples of discharge and cells. It only takes a few seconds and is not usually painful, though it may be uncomfortable for a moment. You will not automatically be tested for all infections. Ask the doctor or nurse which tests they are planning to do, and talk to them about anything you are not sure about. All tests are optional and should only be done with your permission. Sometimes it is too soon to do some of the tests and you may be given another appointment for a later date.

The test results

You may get some of the test results and any necessary treatment, such as antibiotics, straightaway. Some samples have to be sent away to a laboratory so the results take longer to come back. The service that you are attending will arrange with you how you will get these results to maintain your confidentiality.

Telling your partner / sexual partners

If you have an STI then it is very important that your current sexual partner and any other recent partners are also offered testing and treatment. The staff at the clinic or doctor’s surgery can discuss with you how you might tell your partner(s). If you feel that this will be too difficult, GUM clinics can give you a ‘contact slip’ to send to your partner(s) or, with your permission, the clinic can do this for you. The slip explains to the person that they may have been exposed to an STI and suggests that they go for a check-up. It does not have your name on it, so your confidentiality is protected. This is called partner notification. It’s strongly advised you do tell your partner(s) but it is not compulsory.

PEP

Sometimes sex isn’t always as safe as we would like it to be (for example if a condom splits during sex). PEP (which stands for Post Exposure Prophylaxis) is a drug treatment that can be given up to 72 hours (3 days) after sex if someone thinks they may have been exposed to HIV. PEP is an intensive 4 week course of anti HIV medicines.

The best place to go for PEP is a sexual health (GUM) clinic or an HIV clinic. These are usually only open during the week and only during office hours. If you need PEP over the weekend, outside of office hours or during a public holiday the best place to go is the Accident and Emergency (A&E) department of a hospital.