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Frequently Asked Questions

If you have a question this section is a good place to start. Scroll down to see some frequently asked questions and click on each one to see the answer. If your question is not answered here, you can read more in the Advice Section or call 0300 303 2880 to speak to a member of bSHaW staff.

Where can I get contraception? Expand
  • A sexual health (family planning or genitourinary medicine) clinic
  • Your local GP
  • Another GP – where you can register for family planning services only.
Will I have to pay for contraception? Expand

All contraception is free on the NHS in the UK. If you’re not sure which method you want to use, it’s a good idea to visit a local clinic and speak to a nurse or doctor. Find out more about all of these options and how they work by visiting the FPA Contraception Guide.

Where can I get free condoms from? Expand

Condoms are the only form of contraception that, if correctly used, protect against both sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy. If you are under 25 you can get free condoms by signing up to the  C-card scheme. To find your nearest C-card site, go to the service finder tool.

bSHaW Sexual Health Clinics offer free condoms to people of all ages attending their clinics. Use the Service finder Tool to find your local bSHaW Sexual Health Clinic

Can sexually transmitted infections (STIs) be prevented? Expand

Yes, but the only sure way to prevent STIs is by not having sex. You can lower your risk by only having sex with someone who isn’t having sex with anyone else and who doesn’t have an STI, and by always using condoms.

Who should go for an STI test? Expand

Anybody who has symptoms or is worried that they might have come into contact with an STI should have an STI test. We also recommend at test after every change of sexual partner and once a year if you are under 25 years of age.

I have had unprotected sex – what should I do? Expand

Emergency Contraception

If you have had unprotected vaginal sex (i.e. sex without any contraception) and you do not wish to become pregnant you can attend any of the 8 bSHaW sexual health clinics in Buckinghamshire or you can visit your GP. The most effective form of emergency contraception is an emergency coil (copper intrauterine device) which is effective up to 5 days after unprotected sex and has the benefit of protecting you from pregnancy for up to 5-10 years after, if you wish. Oral emergency hormonal contraception (EHC -some people still use the term ‘morning after pill’) is another method of emergency contraception. If you are under 19 and your unprotected sex occurred less than 72 hours ago, you can also obtain EHC for free from some local pharmacists.

There are 2 different tablet types of EHC: Levonelle can be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex, although the earlier you take it the more effective it is in preventing a pregnancy. Ella One can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex. Find out where you can obtain EHC in Buckinghamshire by using our Service Finder Tool. If you think you might be pregnant, you can find out more about what to do here.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

STIs can be passed on from person to person through oral, vaginal and anal sex if a condom is not used. It can take up to 2 weeks after sex with a new partner for gonorrhoea and chlamydia to show on a test, so we recommend testing after this unless you have any symptoms (eg burning when passing urine, unusual discharge coming out of penis or vagina, sores in the genital area) in which case we advise coming to the clinic as soon as possible for a check up and to avoid sexual contact until you have been seen. HIV and syphilis may take longer to show up on tests. You can either attend a walk in clinic (see the notice on the home page), or book an appointment on 0300 303 2880.

I don’t have any symptoms but I want a check-up? Expand

Most STIs don’t have symptoms, so it is important to go for a check-up regularly (we recommend once a year and at every change of sexual partner). You can book an appointment by calling 0300 303 2880, or visit one of our walk in clinics. Please be aware that our walk in clinics can be busy and there may be a wait. You can get a full STI check-up (including HIV) at any of our bSHaW clinics, call 0300 303 2880 or use the Service Finder Tool to find your nearest one. If you want to find out more about the different STIs or HIV, visit our Information section

How often should I be tested? Expand

It depends on whether you are in a long-term relationship and whether you think you may have been in contact with an STI.

The main thing is to have a check-up if you think you have been at risk of infection. Some people have a check up once a year for their own peace of mind, regardless of number of sexual partners. Other people will have a check up together with a new sexual partner when they enter into a relationship.

I think the person I had sex with has HIV, what should I do? Expand

If you think you have been exposed to HIV in the last 72 hours then you may want to discuss PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis). PEP is a course of HIV drugs that someone takes very soon after sex which had a risk of HIV transmission. The drugs are the same ones taken by people with HIV, and for PEP to work they must be taken for four weeks. The sooner PEP is started, the more likely it is to work; within 24 hours is best, but no later than 72 hours (three days). PEP is not guaranteed to work but has a high success rate. It is free of charge but can only be prescribed by doctors and if certain criteria are met. Sexual health and HIV clinics can provide it, as can Accident & Emergency departments of hospitals. Regular family doctors (GPs) don’t give PEP. PEP is available from bSHaW Sexual Health Clinics at Wycombe Hospital and the Brookside clinic in Aylesbury.

If somebody needs PEP when the clinics are closed (weekends / evenings and Bank holidays) people should go to A&E at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

Would I know if I had HIV? Expand

No, a person can have this virus and be perfectly well for years, the only way to know for sure is to have a blood test.

My partner has tested negative for HIV. Does this mean I don’t need to test for HIV? Expand

Not necessarily, you cannot rely on a partners result for any infection. You can only know if you don’t have an infection by having an appropriate test yourself

When should I get tested for HIV, and where can I get tested? Expand

In Buckinghamshire to make sure the tests are accurate it is recommended that you wait 6 weeks after the sex you are worried about. If however, you experience symptoms such as fevers, prolonged flu-like illness, swollen lymph glands and a rash it is advisable to attend the clinic for HIV testing regardless of when you last had unprotected sex and to avoid sexual contact until you have been seen. If you are at high risk for HIV you will be recommended to test again 12 weeks from the last unprotected sex. Likewise for other viral sexually transmitted infections such Hepatitis B or C, we cannot reliably rule out the possibility of being infected with these infections until you test six months from the last unprotected sex.

You can get tested for HIV at any of the bSHaW clinics across Buckinghamshire. You can either attend a walk in clinic, or book an appointment. Visit our Service Finder Tool to find out which clinics are near you or call 0300 303 2880.
For more information on HIV, what it is, PEP, and Support Services, visit the Information section

I have been sexually assaulted, what do I do? Expand

If you have been raped or sexually assaulted, either recently or in the past, there is confidential support available to you. Solace Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) provide a safe, discrete and caring environment to support victims of rape and sexual assault. You will not be made to report the assault to the police but will be helped to do so if this is what you wish.

The Solace Centre is able to:

  • Perform a forensic examination by a specialist forensic doctor
  • Provide crisis support at your initial visit and arrange follow up appointments
  • Provide telephone advice
  • Provide independent advocacy and support with practical matters
  • Introduce other support services, for example Rape Crisis and Victim Support

Solace Centre – Bicester 0800 970 9952

Solace Centre – Slough 0800 970 9952

For more information about Solace click here.
For further support in Buckinghamshire, visit our sexual assault information page.

If you are unsure about contacting Solace you can speak to one of the bSHaW health advisers to discuss options: call 0300 303 2880 and select either option 2 or option 3. If they are busy there will be an answer machine where you can leave a message and they will call you back.

I just want some advice and information on sex and relationships? Expand

If you want some advice and information on sex and relationships, call 0300 303 2880 and select either option 2 or option 3 to speak to a health adviser. If they are busy there will be an answer machine where you can leave a message and they will call you back. All conversations will be fully confidential and our friendly staff know that sometimes, you just need somebody to talk to. All of our staff are very used to talking about sex, they have seen it all lots of times before! There is also lots of information in the iAdvice section of this website, so this may be a good place to start.

How confidential is your service? Expand

Special laws exist to protect personal information at a sexual health clinic, so all information you provide stays confidential. This means any personal information you provide us will be held in the strictest confidence. Your sexual health clinic patient notes are stored within the sexual health clinic and kept separate from general medical notes used in the main hospital. Computerised information about our patients is coded and only staff in the clinic are able to access identifiable information such as your name or address.

No information about your attendance here will be passed on to anyone outside of the sexual health service (like your parents, teachers, GP/family doctor, social worker) without your knowing about it and agreeing to it. The only time this may be different is if you tell us that you or someone else is in a dangerous situation and our 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.

Will my parents find out I’ve been to clinic? Expand

You are entitled to a confidential service, however occasionally we do have to share information with other professionals eg social workers, if you tell us something that makes us suspect you may come to harm or may harm others.

Will you inform my GP? Expand

We do not routinely inform your GP about your attendance. However, if they have formally referred you to us with a letter, we will respond in writing. We will not share any personal details with your GP without your consent.

What personal details do I have to give to register? Expand

When you attend bSHaW you will be given a form which asks for your name, address, preferred contact details, and some optional personal questions. Some patients are reluctant to provide us with their correct details. We advise that you provide these details as we often need them to book you investigations (eg ultrasound scans), refer you to another hospital specialist or contact you to inform you that you have an infection. We appreciate that sexual health is a sensitive topic and this is why bSHaW are always careful to check which method of contact you would prefer.

The optional questions include things like your ethnicity, and place of birth. These questions are asked on a paper form at the beginning of your visit, and the details are only used to give us a overview of the people coming to the clinic so we can make them the best they can be for the patients who attend. This information will be fully confidential and you do not need to provide these details if you do not want to.

Where are your clinics? Expand

There are bSHaW clinics at Wycombe Hospital (the SHAW clinic) and at Brookside in Aylesbury, both run by Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust. In addition there are a range of community bSHaW clinics offering both contraception and STI testing, run by the Terrence Higgins Trust.
GP surgeries provide a range of basic sexual health services including long acting reversible contraception (LARC methods include implants and IUD/IUS’s) and Chlamydia screening and some community pharmacies offer free emergency hormonal contraception to under 19s and free opportunistic Chlamydia screening to 15-24 year olds.
To see the full range of bSHaW clinics, visit our Service Finder

Language difficulties? Expand

Please let bSHaW know in advance when booking your appointment if you need an interpreter so that this can be arranged this for you. In order to book an appointment please call 0300 303 2880.

Do your clinics have disabled access? Expand

All bSHaW Clinics except Brookside sexual health clinic have disabled access.

If you are attending a walk in clinic and require disabled access, please use SHAW, High Wycombe, If you are calling to book an appointment, please advise the receptionist you require disabled access.

I’m embarrassed/nervous about coming to clinic Expand

We recognise that some people do feel embarrassed talking about sex but you really don’t need to be. All of our staff are very used to talking about sex, they have seen it all lots of times before! Our staff are friendly, caring, and professionally trained to deal with situations that can arise. They are non-judgmental and respect your privacy and dignity.

Can I come for a sexual health check up when I have my period? Expand

Yes.

Do you have walk in clinics? Expand

Yes, we do offer walk in clinics. We cannot predict how busy a walk in clinic will be as it depends on how many people choose to attend. If you are coming to a walk in clinic be prepared to wait and be aware we have several clinics running at the same time, which may mean some service users are seen sooner than others i.e. if they have an appointment. All clinics are on the Noticeboard on the Home page click on each clinic to check opening times.

Can I get any tests online? Expand

If you are between 15-24 years of age you can get a free postal chlamydia screening kit online. This service is fully confidential. If you are 15-24 you can also get a free chlamydia testing kit from some pharmacies, a full list of pharmacies can be found on the service finder

I have tested positive for an infection from a test I ordered off the Internet, how do I get treatment? Expand

You can come to any of the bSHaW clinics where we can test you for other infections if needed and give you the correct treatment. It is helpful to bring a copy of your results with you.

What happens at a Sexual Health Clinic? Expand

If you have booked an appointment your visit should usually take about 30 minutes, however some individuals will be required to stay longer (e.g. if you have an infection that needs treating). If you are attending a walk-in-and-wait clinic waiting times could be anything from 15 minutes to 2 hours. When arriving at the clinic you will first need to register with reception. The receptionist will ask you to complete a registration form, provide you with your own unique clinic number, and create a set of notes using this number. The doctor or nurse will then take a sexual history from you. This often includes quite personal questions about why you have come to the clinic, any genital problems, information about your last few sexual partners and the type of sex you have. He or she may examine you and will advise you which tests are recommended. You may be advised to see a Health Adviser—this is routine if you have been diagnosed with an infection, have been sexually assaulted, are under 16 years of age, require short-term counselling or are worried and wish for further information regarding your sexual health. Health Advisers can help you notify your partner(s) if they have been at risk of infections to encourage them to come in for testing and treatment.

For more information, to see patient journey’s and to book an appointment, click here

What is the waiting room like? Expand

It looks very much like a GP surgery. There are waiting rooms, consulting rooms for the doctors and health advisors, examination and treatment rooms for the nurses and an onsite laboratory where some tests are processed on the day. All our waiting rooms are unisex. There is free Wi-Fi in the Brookside Clinic in Aylesbury and the SHAW Clinic at Wycombe Hospital. Unfortunately we do not have free Wi-Fi in the other clinics at present. You will be called from the waiting room by your first name.

Can I bring a friend with me? Expand

You can come to clinic on your own, or with a friend or family member who can be with you when you are seeing the doctors and nurses. However we will want to see you on your own, even if just for a few minutes, in case there are things you need to discuss in private.

Can I see a male/female Doctor or Nurse? Expand

You may request to see either at reception . However we do have more female staff than male so we may not be able to accommodate all requests.

Will I get tested for everything? Expand

The doctor will decide what tests to do based on information from your sexual history. We routinely test for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and HIV. Certain infections can only be diagnosed at the time if they are visibly present, such as warts and herpes. The swabs/tests aren’t painful but they can sometimes be a little uncomfortable. If you are worried about any of the tests, always speak to the doctor or nurse that is doing them beforehand.

Men should not pass urine for at least 90 minutes before their appointment.

How long do I have to wait for the results? Expand

Some provisional results (gonorrhoea, NSU, bacterial vaginosis, trichomonas and thrush) may be available at the end of your consultation. If you are found to have an infection on the day, treatment is provided. All of your final results will be ready in 7 to 10 working days. Sometimes results are sent via text message, sometimes patients arrange to telephone us, or you may be asked to return for another appointment.

If a test comes back as positive does that mean I have an infection and can it be treated? Expand

Yes a positive result means you have an infection. Depending which test comes back as positive, most STIs can be treated with antibiotics (chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis) others may require long term treatment to manage them (HIV). Others may have recurrences that require management at times (warts & herpes), but are harmless to your health.

Will I have to pay for my treatment? Expand

Treatment for STIs and contraception (including condoms) are all free of charge from bSHaW Sexual Health Clinics.

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