Terrence Higgins Trust is marking the scariest night of the year with a myth-busting guide to sexual health clinics for anyone worried about things that go bump (and itch) in the night.
With almost half a million people affected by sexually transmitted infections (STIs) every year in the UK, the HIV and sexual health charity is encouraging people to seek support and get a sexual health check at their local clinic rather than suffering fears in silence this Halloween.
Skeletons in the closet: Everyone’s got a past and it’s more than likely you will have had more than one sexual partner. If an encounter keeps coming back to haunt you don’t push it to the back of your mind, get checked out at a sexual health clinic. Simply click on the link here and add in your postcode to find your nearest options.
The Vanishing: And if you’re worried about being seen by someone you know in your local clinic you can also use one further away.You don’t need your doctor to send you to a clinic, they don’t even need to know you’ve been to one. If you do want moral support though you can bring a friend with you.
No trick or treat costs: Tests and treatments at sexual health clinics are free, wherever you’ve come from or however long you’ve been in the UK.
Feel like you’re turning into a pumpkin? If you’re short on time, you can now make an appointment at your sexual health clinic and if you’re using a ‘walk-in’ service, make sure you get there early to avoid waiting longer. Tell whoever’s seeing you at the clinic if you’re experiencing any symptoms, which should mean you’re seen more quickly. Clinics should see you within 48 hours of contacting them.
Dr Jekyll / Mr Hyde: You don’t have to give your real name at a sexual health clinic although it’s better if you do in case they need to contact you. By law, clinics have to keep your personal details confidential, so they’re not shared with anyone, even your family doctor, without your permission. Test results can only be shared with other people if you agree to this. There’s no public list kept of people with HIV.
Vampires need not apply: HIV tests are now quicker and easier, and can be done in many clinics using a drop of blood from a finger prick test that gives results in minutes. More and more clinics now check for STIs by testing your urine and if you do need a swab from ‘down below’ any discomfort only lasts a second. The guys’ horror story about an ‘umbrella’ or hook-type of instrument that goes down your penis is thankfully a myth.
No silent calls: For any questions or worries about HIV and STIs or to find out more about what happens at a sexual health clinic, call THT Direct on 0845 12 21 200 (weekdays 10am-10pm, weekends midday-6pm).