An Ode to Sexual Health Clinics

I’m a “good girl”. Yesterday, I wouldn’t climb on the roof of the People’s Palace for fear of getting into trouble. As such a risk adverse person I always use condoms with a new sexual partner, that is, until they become a long-term partner. This self-imposed rule is one I followed with my very first relationship aged 16. Fast forward three years, he broke up with me the day after my birthday and then followed this up with an email detailing the (very) numerous times he had cheated on me over the course of our relationship.

Oddly, my first point of call was to change my Netflix password so the bastard couldn’t watch anymore Breaking Bad. The next was getting mullered at a bar with some friends and then finally, booking an appointment with the local sexual health clinic. Just to clarify, I’ve been to both the Sylvia Pankhurst Centre at Mile End Hospital and the Ambrose Centre and The Royal London Hospital before for non-sexual reasons, but this occasion was the first time I’d gone with the dread I could test positive for an STI.

To sum up my visit to these clinics, I can be nothing but positive and my friends can attest I’ve become quite the fan-girl. The staff are so, so lovely (especially this Spanish lady who only referred to me as sweetheart, even when I had my legs in the air) and are incredibly reassuring and respectful. They understand that no one wants to be tested for STIs, but it is an important aspect of looking after your sexual health. I hate doctors, due to experiencing all the incompetence i can handle, but I’m a cheerleader for walk-in clinics. I’ve become the girl all my friends ask when their worried about what going to one entails. I’m also that girl who will encourage you too to go.

Clinics aren’t scary, I promise. The circumstance which lead you there, yes, they’re scary but the clinics are wonderful. From a female perspective, if you aren’t showing symptoms a visit just entails a swab (which you do yourself in a toilet) and a blood test. If you do have symptoms, the nurse or doctor will do the swab themselves and take a look down there. This could be embarrassing for some (I’m really past the point of caring any more – speculums come at me…) but I think having an undiagnosed STI is far worse. Guys – there’s no umbrella shoved down your manhood, this I promise too. If you don’t have symptoms, you just pee in a cup and have a blood test. If you do, you have a (teeny tiny) swab – no biggie. Expect your test results within 1-2 weeks.

The Sylvia Pankhurst Centre is right next to the Mile End campus and is a walk-in centre. I recommend going early and be prepared to wait between an hour and an hour and a half. They’ll send you your results via text. The Ambrose centre is right next to the Whitechapel campus and is my personal favourite (the lovely Spanish lady also said it was the better of the two). You can make an appointment the day before or just walk in. I find if you get there at 8, you’ll only be waiting for around 30 minutes. This clinic has the advantage of being able to process some tests, like thrush and BV, whilst your there. To get your results, you’ll ring up a helpline in a weeks time. Best thing about clinics? If you do have something, they’ll give you your medication for free.

So here’s my advice: If you’re worried about your sexual health – go ASAP. If your not worried, go anyway – maybe once a year just to make sure you’re looking after yourself the best you can. I don’t care if you sleep with a million people, or are in a long-term monogamous relationship full of trust, you should always be looking after yourself – treat it as an MOT. Also, request the Spanish lady.

Oh, and to end on an even happier note, I got the all clear!

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