What services do sexual health clinics (GUM clinics) provide?

Sexual health clinics are sometimes known as genito-urinary medicine (GUM) clinics. They are usually located at your local hospital, or as part of another health centre, in a separate building. You can find your nearest sexual health clinic by visiting the Family Planning Association website (see Further information), or by calling NHS Direct on 0845 4647.

Genito-urinary medicine deals with the male and female sexual organs and the urinary system (the system in the body that produces, stores and gets rid of urine). Your GP might refer you to a sexual health clinic if you have a problem with these parts of your body. You can also make an appointment to see someone at a sexual health clinic without being referred by your GP.

GUM clinics can usually give you tests for sexual and urinary health problems, such as:

sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as Syphilis, Gonorrhoea, Genital Warts, and Chlamydia
Cystitis (bladder infection)
other infections of the genitals, such as thrush
At most GUM clinics you can make an appointment for a general check up, which also include tests for a range of STIs. Before starting a new sexual relationship, it’s a good idea for you and your partner to be tested for any sexually transmitted infections. You might also want to have a check-up before trying for a baby.

GUM clinics can provide contraceptive advice, including free emergency contraception and condoms. Some clinics may also be able to fit cervical caps or diaphragms (a form of contraception), and provide cervical smear tests (a test to check for any abnormal cells in the neck of the womb). They can also offer advice and counselling on a range of sexual health issues, and provide support if you’re having an HIV test, or if you have been diagnosed as HIV positive.

If you visit a GUM clinic, everything that is discussed is completely confidential. Your GP will not be told about your visit, and you do not have to give your real name if you do not want to.

What are Sexually Transmitted Infections?

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are diseases passed on through intimate sexual contact. They can be passed on during vaginal, anal and oral sex, as well as through genital contact with an infected partner. Common STIs in the UK include Chlamydia, genital warts and Gonorrhoea.

How common are they?
In the UK, the incidence of STIs has been rising since the 1990s. Between 2007 and 2008, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) reported a 0.5% increase in the number of diagnosed STIs, with a total of 399,738 new cases reported in 2008.

The biggest increase was in the number of confirmed diagnoses of genital herpes, which rose by 10% to a total of 28,957 cases. There were also increases in diagnoses of genital warts and Chlamydia.

The numbers of diagnosed cases of STIs are still going up and the age group most affected continues to be 16 to 24-year-olds. Even though they make up just 12% of the population, young people account for more than half of all STIs diagnosed in the UK. This includes 65% of new Chlamydia cases and 55% of new cases of genital warts.

More information on STIs
For more information on the most common STIs see the Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) page.