Last Updated on March 24, 2021 by Nancy Carteron, MD, FACR
This guest post was written anonymously after the author experienced both of the STD testing services outlined below.
So, for whatever reason you realize it’s STD testing time (and let’s face it, there are loads of great reasons) and you are in the UK, what do you do?
How To Get STD Testing in the UK
Well, here’s what I did.
As with anything I need these days, I started with Google where I typed in that I needed an STD testing and various options came up…..
Option 1: NHS
NHS treatment is available to UK residents, and EU residents with a valid EHIC card and it’s free.
Many hospitals have a clinic called a GUM (genito and urinary medicine) clinic where you go for testing. Your own doctor may not do all or any STD testing. Most of the GUM clinics have a web page and there is a mix of walk-in and set appointments at various times in the week, so you can choose which is right for you.
I made an appointment, but it still took me 20 mins to be seen.
The first thing they asked me to do was fill in a form with my name, address, date of birth and doctor’s name. I asked why as I thought that all testing was anonymous, but they said they liked to have the forms filled in.
The waiting room was a bit sparse and there were a lot of people looking at the floor – we all knew why we were there.
Then I had an appointment with the nurse who asked me why I had come and asked me questions about my sex life (who, what, when) and said that I could be tested for HIV, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhoea, and she could also examine me for any uncertain blemishes ‘down there’.
I asked if I could be tested for herpes, but she said that I could only be tested if I had a blister. I wanted to know whether the mouth sores I’d had were herpes or not, but she said that wasn’t possible with NHS testing.
So, samples were taken, and I was told that if I didn’t hear back from them in two weeks, then I could assume they were all negative.
Next time STD test time came around, I wondered about some of the other options Google came up with…
Option 2: Better2Know (5% discount with coupon ‘STI Project’) & Private STD Testing Clinics
Wanting faster results and not having to stare at other people in the GUM clinic, I entered the world of private medicine at www.better2know.co.uk (mention ‘STI Project’ and receive a 5% discount on all testing services) where they promised fast results and complete anonymity.
They have loads of clinics across the UK.
You can go in (most people there are having a mole removed or some other treatment, which means they don’t know why you are there at all), see a doctor, and get your results back – HIV lab tests come back the next day!
I was in London, so I chose to go to their facility on Wimpole Street (near Baker Street tube). There you can choose to see a doctor once you have got your results.
So, all I had to do was book and pay in advance, and I could use any name I liked!
I went to Wimpole Street on a Saturday morning, gave my new name, and waited for a few minutes for a nurse to take my blood and urine samples (ok, I managed the urine without the help of a nurse), and that was that – no sex questions, no awkward counting of days and partners – all done.
Just four days later, I got a phone call with all of my STD testing results (and I’d been tested for the four that the NHS test for plus herpes – I was negative), hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. I was then asked if I wanted to see a doctor, which, I didn’t feel the need to, and that was it – all there was to it.
I had my results emailed to me, so I could see for myself that I was negative.
Better2know was a bit more money, but it was worth it for the fast results and not having to sit hiding behind a magazine in the waiting room in case someone recognized me.
I know where I will be going should there be a next time….
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This guest post was written anonymously by a woman living in the UK after she experienced both of the services outlined above.
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What do you think about this guest poster’s experience? Have you had a similar experience? Do you prefer one service over another? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
- Information about STD Testing
- Find a free clinic via NHS
- Find Better2know Clinic – mention ‘STI Project’ for 5% off
- Use the FPA’s tool to find STD testing (not mentioned in the above post)
- When to Get Tested Based on Testing Windows
- Think You Might Have an STD? Your Ultimate Reference Guide
- What It’s Like to Get Tested – the Executive Director’s Story
- Is There an Age Limit for Sexual Health? Written by Better2Know’s Anthea Morris
In England there is a 48 hour appointment rule for NHS sexual health clinics so everyone should be seen within that time. You don’t have to be a European resident – you can come from anywhere in the world and treatment is free. Central London NHS clinics are highly rated e.g. Mortimer Market Centre, Dean Street Clinic, St Mary’s Paddington and the John Hunter Clinic at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. [In my opinion], there is no real advantage in paying and going private. The reason why a herpes test is not carried out when there are no symptoms is because a swab from the skin is the only reliable way to find out if you have genital herpes. Antibody blood tests will tell you if you have HSV1 and/or HSV2 but not where on the body that you caught it. Most infections are facial and most people do not have noticeable symptoms anyway. Even HSV2 might be a facial infection. The other problem with herpes blood tests is that it takes up to three months for antibodies to build up enough to register on the test. This means that if you caught herpes in the last few weeks but have no symptoms, you will be none the wiser. For people in the UK there is a herpes charity – The Herpes Viruses Association – run by patients for patients – http://www.herpes.org.uk – helpline – 0845 123 2305.
Hi Nigel –
Thank you for your message. Please excuse my delayed reply in approving your comment – I had to check the website you referenced and my time was limited over the past two days. I’m glad you shared the link for the UK’s herpes charity! I will be adding it to my recommended external references list under herpes-specific references. So, thanks again!
Keep in mind, this post was written by an individual who had used both services and for the reasons mentioned, prefers to pay and test privately as opposed to utilizing NHS’ services again. I’m sure not all people will agree as you have indicated, so a contradicting view is always helpful. Not everyone can afford to pay for private testing and that NHS treats anyone is great. 🙂
As you’ve mentioned, a herpes simplex 1 & 2 blood test can take up to 3 months to be accurate after first exposure. However, if one does have either strain and they are asymptomatic, they can still transmit the virus to someone else – via oral (all of the facial infections you spoke of), anal, or vaginal sex. So, just because they don’t show noticeable symptoms does not mean one doesn’t want to or need to know whether or not they carry the virus. This is especially true because even though someone may be asymptomatic and transmit the virus to someone else, the person who contracts it will not necessarily be asymptomatic. Albeit, it is a shame, I agree, we can not yet pinpoint the virus’ location without an active outbreak.
Due to the prevalence of both HSV1 and HSV2, I believe it shouldn’t be regarded with as much stigma as it is, but that does not negate the ethics behind determining whether or not you carry the virus and disclosing that information to potential partners before putting them at risk. Can you imagine the uproar if we condoned not getting tested just because one does not notice symptoms?!?! The same is true for all STDs as the most common STD symptom is no symptom at all – all STDs are still contagious when asymptomatic. Untreated STDs can cause all sorts of problems – I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that! 🙂
All of the points I mentioned are why a comprehensive and holistic approach to safer-sex is important. If one believes they were recently exposed, they should use a guide like this one indicating STD testing windows (https://thestiproject.com/std-testing-windows-when-to-get-tested-stds/) and then should retest at a minimum of 3-6 month intervals (to eliminate false negatives), before a new partner, during a new partnership, and after as well. This seems extensive, I know, and is why a free service can be awesome. When in a monogamous relationship, testing can be reduced to once per year. Included in a comprehensive and holistic approach to safer-sex is talking to one’s partner about number of sexual partners with and without protection, recent testing and which tests were taken, getting tested together, using protection correctly and consistently until tests are taken and if the relationship is not exclusive, and trying to limit number of partners. All of these things work together to help eliminate some of the uncertainties inherent in STD testing and they also do a good job of eroding some of the stigma attached to those things by simply talking about them.
Thanks again for your feedback, Nigel – much appreciated!
Thank you for nice comparison. I think private clinic is better option although its bit costlier.
Yes, I hear that from those who have tried both quite often, albeit, it has a lot to do with whether or not one can afford private testing, of course… What’s nice is the free testing is always an option for those with less means, and it sounds like they do a nice job too – I’ve tried both in the US with comparable results.
Thanks so much for sharing your opinion as well!