It really depends. If you’re starting a new relationship with someone it is a good idea for you both to go and have an STI check to make sure you’re all clear – remember things like HIV, hepatitis B & C and syphilis can take up to three months to get an accurate test result. If you’re single and sexually active, especially if you’re having sex unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners, I would advise you have a regular STI check – as often as every three months.
For a full STI screen the process is quite straight forward. A nurse will ask you a series of questions about the sort of sex you have and then take some blood samples to test for HIV and hepatitis. You will also be asked to take one or more swabs of the inside of your genitals (for both men and women) and provide a urine sample. The nurse might also check your throat. They’ll probably send you away with some free condoms as well! It’s nothing to be worried about – these people have heard everything you can think of and won’t make you feel embarrassed. Most people feel relieved after visiting a sexual health clinic.
Results are usually provided over the phone or via text message within a week and if anything shows up you’ll be asked to go back for a follow-up appointment.
There are loads of options for taking STI tests though, and if you really are worried but don’t want to see a doctor or nurse, you can self-test yourself at home for HIV, gonorrhoea, chlamydia, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, syphilis and HIV. You can get these via the NHS’s Freedoms Shop https://www.freedoms-shop.com/testing-kits/.