As we approach Movember I thought might post about a topic that some men have talked to us about on the helpline – their sexual health.
Q. I’m sexually active and, although I don’t have any symptoms, it’s a long time since I had a sexual health check-up. I find being poked and prodded by a doctor or nurse too stressful and this sometimes triggers flashbacks. Sometimes I even find their questions about sexual history are triggering. But I am concerned about my sexual health, so what can I do?
A. Many STIs have no symptoms so it is a good idea to get a regular check-up, just to be sure. As you have no symptoms, you might want to consider doing the tests at home – yes, I do mean at home yourself! Services like the NHS service SH:24 provide free home testing kits. You will be tested for the same four infections – chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, and HIV – as if you had attended the clinic. The tests are sent to your home in a plain envelope and you post them back to the lab once you have done them.
The tests that you will need to do depend on the sexual activities that you have but may a blood sample, oral swab, anal swab, and urine sample. There will be full information about how to do each test yourself. There are often links to videos that you can watch which can help you test yourself correctly. The results are sent back to you by text and if you need treatment, you will be given information about how to get this.
Q. What if I do have some symptoms?
A. If you have any of the following symptoms then it is worth seeking advice from your GP or nearest sexual health clinic:
- discharge from the penis
- pain or burning when you pee
- itches, rashes, lumps or bumps around your genitals or anus
- pain during sex
- pain in the testicles
- pain in the lower abdomen
We know it can be difficult to talk to a sexual health professional and to face the possibility that your genitals or anus may need to be examined. However, sexual health professionals are used to doing this. If they tell you they need to examine you, you could explain that you find these examinations very difficult and ask for what might help you to get through. For example, would it help if they went slowly? Would it help if they explained in some detail exactly what they are going to do before they do it? Would it help if they showed you any equipment that they need to use before they use it? Do tell the professional what helps you so that they can do their best to minimise any distress.
If you are based in London, you can make an appointment with Clinic26. This is a a safe place for men who have experienced sexual abuse, assault or rape, to access sexual health services in a supportive environment. The clinic is part of a special partnership between Barts Health NHS Trust and SurvivorsUK.
Remember that having good sexual health is just a part of having good health overall. I hope that now you have read this blog, you might feel able talk about this and get yourself checked at home in or in clinic if you need to.
Leave a comment below if there is anything you would like to say or add to this topic.
Seán, Senior Helpliner, SurvivorsUK
SurvivorsUK web/SMS chat is a helpline for men who have experienced sexual abuse either as a child or an adult. We also speak to their close friends and family. If you would like to access the online chat and get immediate support, please click here.