Sexual health clinics

Page last reviewed: 13/07/2011

Sexual health services include the following:

  • contraception and contraception advice,
  • emergency contraception and emergency contraception advice,
  • testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhoea and genital warts, and
  • testing and counselling for HIV and AIDS.

STI clinics ,which are usually located in hospitals, provide testing,treatment and counselling services for STIs. Many GPs, the Well-Woman Clinics and the Irish Family Planning Association provide contraception services,vaccinations, pregnancy testing and smear testing as well as services for STIs

Information and contact details are available for STI clinics nationwide along with information about contraception and emergency contraception at


Page last reviewed: 13/07/2011

If you need advice and support with a sexual health matter or you have a problem with your urinary system, you can either see your GP or make an appointment to visit your local sexual health clinic.

Referral from your GP

If your GP thinks that you have a sexually transmitted infection they may carry out some tests, including blood tests or urinalysis, or they may refer you to a specialist at a sexual health clinic for testing.


As well as being referred by your GP, you can also make an appointment to visit a sexual health clinic without a referral.

It is important to remember that many sexually transmitted infections (STIs) do not have any noticeable symptoms. Therefore, it is a good idea for you and your partner to be tested for STIs before you start a new sexual relationship.

Most STI clinics carry out general health check-ups, which include tests for a range of STIs. You may also want to have a check-up before trying for a baby.

All information regarding your visit to the sexual health clinic will be treated confidentially, and your GP will not be contacted without your permission.

Sexual health services

Sexual health services are free and available to everyone regardless of sex, age, ethnic origin and sexual orientation.


Counselling is guided discussion with an independent trained person, to help you find your own answers to a problem or issue.
Urine sample
Urinalysis (UA) is when a urine sample is tested. This is normally to measure sugar levels or check for signs of infection or protein.
Blood supplies oxygen to the body and removes carbon dioxide. It is pumped around the body by the heart.

Page last reviewed: 13/07/2011

When you visit a sexual health clinic for the first time you will usually be asked to fill in a form with your name and contact details. You do not have to give your real name or tell staff who your GP is if you do not want to.

The type of health professional that you see will depend on the reason you are visiting the clinic. If you need to be tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), you may need to provide a urine or blood sample.


If you are seeking advice about contraception you will be asked about your medical and sexual history.

There are several different types of contraception, and each type works in a different way. Barrier methods of contraception, such as condoms, create a physical barrier against sperm.

Women can use hormonal methods of contraception, such as the contraceptive pill. They can also use mechanical contraceptive devices, such as an intra-uterine device (IUD), which is placed in the womb (uterus). For more information about IUDs, see below.

If you decide to use a mechanical method of contraception, such as an IUD, you may need to have an internal examination and be tested for STIs.

See Useful links for more about contraception.

Emergency contraception

Most sexual health clinics will be able to provide you with advice about emergency contraception. If you have had unprotected sex (sex without using contraception), or if the contraception that you were using failed, emergency contraception can be used to prevent pregnancy.

There are two types of emergency contraception: the emergency contraceptive pill and the IUD.

  • The emergency contraceptive pill NorLevo can be taken up to three days (72 hours) after unprotected sex. EllaOne contraceptive pill can be taken up to 5 days (120 hours) after unprotected sex. If the contraceptive pill is taken within 24 hours, it is 95% effective.


  • The IUD is a small, rigid T-shaped contraceptive device that is fitted inside the womb (uterus) by a nurse or doctor within five days of having unprotected sex. It works by stopping sperm reaching an egg and is almost 100% effective.

See Useful links for further information about emergency contraception.

Sexually transmitted infections

If you are visiting a sexual health clinic to be tested for STIs, you will be asked a number of questions about your sex life. This might be embarrassing for you at first, but you need to answer honestly in order to ensure that you receive the most appropriate advice and treatment.

If you are diagnosed with an STI it is very important that your current sexual partner, and some, or all, of your previous sexual partners, is informed as soon as possible. The number of sexual partners that need to be contacted will depend on the type of STI you have.

If you have an STI, your partner (and previous partners) will need to be tested and, if necessary, treated in order to prevent the infection being passed on to anyone else.

Staff at the sexual health clinic will be able to advise you about the sexual partners who will need to be contacted, and may be able to contact them on your behalf. If you wish, your anonymity will be protected when contacting your previous sexual partners.

See Useful links to find out more about STIs and for further information about testing.


The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a sexually transmitted virus that attacks the body's immune system. A healthy immune system provides the body with a natural defence against disease and infection.

Over time, HIV destroys the cells that are responsible for fighting infection, leaving you with a high risk of developing other diseases or infections, such as cancer.

If you are visiting a sexual health clinic to be tested for HIV, you will be asked a series of questions about your symptoms and medical history. The HIV test looks for antibodies to HIV.

It is usually recommended that you wait 12 weeks after having unprotected sex before having the HIV test. This is because the body can take a while to develop antibodies to HIV. Waiting will ensure that the test results are reliable.

See Useful links for more about HIV and AIDS.

Page last reviewed: 13/07/2011

If you have had a test for a sexually transmitted infection (STI), you may be informed of the result straight away. However, you may have to wait several weeks for the results of some tests.

Getting your test results

Staff at the sexual health clinic will ask for your permission before phoning you with your results, or they may send them to you in an unmarked envelope. Alternatively, you may be asked to come into the clinic to get your test results and to talk to an adviser. This will be the case if you are diagnosed with HIV.

Treatment and advice

If your test results show that you have an STI, a healthcare professional at the clinic will be able to discuss your results with you and advise you about possible treatment options.

Many STIs can be treated using antibiotics. Others, such as HIV, are not curable. If you have HIV, staff at the clinic will arrange an appointment for you with a counsellor, as well as advising you about treatments to control the condition and slow its progression.

Preventing sexually transmitted infections

The best way to protect yourself from getting an STI, including HIV, is to practise safe sex. When having sex, including oral and anal sex, always use a condom.

If you are diagnosed with an STI, make sure you follow the advice of the healthcare professional at the clinic with regards to having sex while you are being treated.

It is a crime to knowingly infect someone with HIV.


Antibiotics are medicines that can be used to treat infections caused by micro-organisms, usually bacteria or fungi. Amoxicillin, streptomycin and erythromycin are examples of antibiotics.

Content provided by NHS Choices and adapted for Ireland by the Health A-Z.

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