For Women: "What if my partner has symptoms but I don’t?"

If you have had unprotected sex, the chances are that you are infected too, but in the early stages it may need sensitive lab tests to determine with any confidence whether you are infected or not.

The sooner your infection is diagnosed the more effective is treatment and the less likely that you will develop any complications.

"Do I need to see a health care professional?"

Yes, if you have any reason to think that you may have a genital infection. This is particularly the case if you have had unprotected sex with a new partner. It costs very little to get advice, treatment if required, and reassurance. In many countries, including the UK, advice and treatment are free.

The consequences of a missed genital tract infection may be that you suffer unnecessary pain or that you are unable to have children when you want them. Chlamydia (and gonorrhoea) are one of the commonest causes of infertility in women.

"Which health care professional should I see?"

That rather depends on the health care setting in the country in which you live.

All health care professionals are obliged to keep personal health details strictly confidential.

Most people have a doctor or nurse or health care assistant to whom they go with general ailments. It really depends whether you feel comfortable about consulting that person about a genital infection, bearing in mind that you will probably need an internal genital examination. STIs are generally simple to manage and treat, but a general physician or health care person may not have access to some of the necessary laboratory tests and may not be able to provide special counselling and ancillary services.

In most countries there are doctors who specialize in the management and treatment of STIs. These doctors may be gynaecologists or, in Europe, dermato-venerologists (skin and STI specialists), often working in private practice. Generally an appointment is necessary.

In the UK there is an excellent network of "Sexual Health", "Genitourinary medicine" or "Special" clinics which provide a completely free of charge, confidential and specialist service for genital infections. Most clinics now run an appointment system, but * will still see you if you walk in off the street*. They also provide general advice on sexual health issues and counselling if necessary. Other good places are youth clinics or family planning clinics. The UK is unusual in that these doctors specialize in STIs and sexual health only and they have specialist nurses and health advisers attached to their clinics. These clinics are generally funded by the NHS (the National Health Service). For a list of the names and addresses of these UK clinics, click here, or look in the telephone book under your local hospital.

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Generally, specialist doctors are the ones most likely to have access to the proper laboratory and follow up facilities. They can provide access to special counselling if required, and are highly experienced in tactfully dealing with the particular concerns you are likely to have. They try to provide a relaxing environment for apprehensive patients and their services are completely confidential. In the UK, laboratory testing for STIs is being increasingly made available to General Practitioners (GPs), some of whom are increasingly specialising in this area. The GPs and Special services tend to attract different clientele and offer a service which is increasingly complementary to each other.

In developing countries, STIs are often treated in private clinics, or by nurses, health advisers, health assistants or so-called 'bare foot' doctors. In poorer countries a lack of laboratory test facilities may mean that treatment will often be based on signs or symptoms alone. The lack of test facilities does not necessarily equate to poor health care; there are many excellent health care professionals in developing countries.

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[MEW] 2011.

Topic revision: r3 - 2011-04-16 - MeWard
 
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