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A healthy sex life

a woman and man lying side-by-side and laughing

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 you feel good.

It also means respecting your partners and taking responsibility for their sexual health as well as your own.

Some of us have sexually transmitted infections that cannot be cured (such as HIV, or herpes) or that we live with long term (like hepatitis B or C). We can still 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 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 a lot less infectious.


Where do I go for sexual health advice?

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 GU clinic), which is 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.

Clinics are confidential and no-one is told of your visit or what tests and treatment you receive.

If you go to your GP any test and treatments will go on your medical notes.


How often should I go?

How often you should be checked depends upon how many people you have sex with:

If you don't have a regular partner and you have casual sex you should go at least once every six months.

If you have lots of sexual partners have a check-up more often than every six months.

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.

Before having sex at the start of a new relationship - have a check-up, especially if you're thinking about not using condoms (then HIV tests are strongly recommended). A sexual health screening should also include an HIV test.


How do I find a sexual health clinic?

For more about getting a sexual health check-up and to find local clinics, contact THT Direct on 0808 802 1221 or use our service finder.


Safer sex and HIV ››

 

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The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 30/6/2014 by C. Berry

Date due for the next review: 30/6/2017

Content Author: R Scholey

Current Owner: Health Promotion

More information:

What services do sexual health clinics (GUM clinics) provide? NHS, May 2015

M Carter, Prognosis, NAM, March 2012

M Carter, Infectiousness, NAM, September 2015

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