Good Sexual Health includes:
- Feeling good about yourself
- Having the knowledge, skills and ability to protect yourself and your partner against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and/or unwanted pregnancies
- Feeling comfortable about your sexual orientation and feeling accepted
- Being able to choose to have sex or not to have sex
- And being free from exploitation, physical or emotional harm
Good sexual health depends on having access to information, advice, screening and, if necessary, treatment. Seeking advice from health professionals and regular check-ups are important to prevent unwanted pregnancies and STIs. Early diagnosis and treatment of STIs can help improve your long term health and prevent diseases spreading.
Across Teesside (Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar & Cleveland and Stockton-on-Tees) Sexual Health Teesside (Virgin Care) offers a free, non-judgemental and confidential service. Clinics are located in each town providing free contraception, STI testing, treatment and advice.
Services are available to anyone, of any age and not just residents of Teesside. There is no need to see a GP before visiting a clinic. You can either book an appointment at a time that suits you or go to a walk-in clinic. The clinic that you choose doesn’t have to be the clinic closest to where you live; it can be any of the clinics on Teesside.
Some of the clinics have extended opening hours, so you can find a time to suit you. Services are young people friendly. If you are under 16 you can use the service. You don’t need parental permission and don’t have to tell them but you also are welcome to bring a parent, carer or friend if you want to. For more information about the service go to Sexual Health Teesside.
Sexual health services are offered at:
Sexual Health Clinics – offer a full range of contraception and STI advice, testing and treatment services and cervical screening Sexual Health Teesside Location Finder
Pharmacies – provide emergency contraception, chlamydia testing and C-Card services (free condoms for 16-24 year olds) Sexual Health Teesside – Pharmacies
General Practices – offer advice, prescribe oral contraception, undertake pregnancy testing and carry out cervical screening. Some may also offer chlamydia testing and Long Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) for example; the coil, implant.
The best way to protect yourself from getting or passing on an infection or unwanted pregnancy is to use a condom every time you have sex. You can get condoms through your sexual health clinic or other services such as youth centres or pharmacies offering the C-card scheme. Young people aged 16 -24 can register for a C card. A C-card app to help you find you nearest C-card location is currently under development. To find the nearest pharmacy offering C-cards go to Sexual Health Teesside – Pharmacies
Sexual Health Teesside offers contraception advice and provides a full range of contraceptive methods including hormonal contraception (the pill) and long acting contraceptives such as injections, implants and coils.
Free condoms are available through sexual health clinics and other services such as youth centres and pharmacies offering the C card scheme.
Long acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) are the most effective form of contraception. There is a range of different methods including injections, implants and coils. The sexual health service and a number of general practices provide specialist advice on the best method of contraception. Find out more at NHS Choices – Contraception Guide
Emergency contraception can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or if your contraceptive method has failed (for example, if a condom has split or you’ve missed a pill). Emergency contraception does not protect against STIs. There are two types: copper coil (IUD) and the emergency contraceptive pill. The copper IUD can be inserted up to 5 days after having unprotected sex. The IUD is more effective than the emergency pill at preventing pregnancy after unprotected sex. The emergency contraceptive pill is sometimes called the “morning after pill”. There are two kinds of emergency contraceptive pills which are effective up to 5 days after sex. Find out more at NHS Choices – Emergency Contraception
TESTING, SCREENING & TREATMENT
You can get an STI test if you think you might have an STI or just want a check up. The sexual health service offers STI testing including testing for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, genital warts, genital herpes, HIV and other infections. Chlamydia is the most common STI and Gonorrhoea is the second most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the UK. Both are easily treated with antibiotics but if left untreated, it can spread to other reproductive organs. The sexual health service offers treatment and advise to anyone who tests positive for an STI. Find out more at NHS Choices – STI
Chlamydia testing is offered through a range of different services including sexual health clinics where it is part of an STI test. Chlamydia tests are offered by GPs and Pharmacies, as well as outreach and youth services including vending machines at local colleges and Teesside University. You can also order a Chlamydia test online through Sexual Health Teesside – Chlamydia Testing Kit. The sexual health service offers treatment and advise to everyone with a positive test result.
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) affects the immune system and that can lead to AIDS if left untreated. The HIV virus is passed from person to person during unprotected sex including anal, vaginal and on rare occasions, oral sex. The virus can also be transmitted by sharing injecting equipment for drug use. Mothers can pass HIV on to her baby during childbirth and/or breast feeding. The sexual health service offers HIV testing as part of their STI testing as well as rapid HIV testing where results are available within 20 minutes.
HIV Home Sampling is a free test for people at higher risk which can be ordered online to take a sample at home and return by post. Please check if you are eligible and order a test at www.test.hiv.
It is important to do a pregnancy test as soon as possible if you think you might be pregnant. This can be done from the first day of a missed period. If the test is done before this time, the levels of the pregnancy hormone might be too low to be detected on the test. This means that you could get a negative result even if you are pregnant. You should take the test three weeks after unprotected sex at the earliest if you don’t know when your next period is due. Free pregnancy testing is available at sexual health clinics and GP practices.
Cervical screening or a smear test is offered to women aged 25 to 64 to check the health of cells in the cervix. Women are invited every three years between the ages of 25 and 49, and every five years between the ages of 50 and 64. Most test results show that everything is normal, but for around 1 in 20 women the test will show some abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix which require further investigation.
If you have had the HPV vaccine you will still need to attend cervical screening.
The sexual health service offers cervical screening. Find out more about cervical screening on NHS Choices – Cervical Screening and on Healthy Living Tees Valley. If you live within Redcar and Cleveland or Middlesbrough, information on the campaign running in your area can be found here.
All pregnancy tests are very reliable and so if the result is positive, this means you are pregnant. You now need to think about your options. Do not delay making your decision but also make sure that you take enough time to make the right decision for you. There is support available to help you weigh up your options. You may choose to talk to people close to you that you trust to help you make up your mind. It is very important to make sure that any advice you get is from accurate sources and unbiased services.
If you have had a positive pregnancy test you can:
- Come and have a chat with a member of staff at the Sexual Health Service
- Book an appointment with your GP or with a midwife via your GP.
- Call the FPA (Family Planning Association) helpline on 0845 122 8690. They can talk to you confidentially and free of charge about the pregnancy and your options.
- If you are under 25 you can get advice and support from the Brook helpline on 0808 802 1234.
- Call the British Pregnancy Advisory Service on 03457 30 40 30 to discuss your options
- If you choose, you can self refer to the local termination of pregnancy service North Tees University Hospital and James Cook University Hospital
Sexual health outreach services for young people are offered across Teesside at schools, colleges, youth services and universities. Sexual health information and advice is offered at health drop-ins and in cooperation with school nursing and youth services. Several colleges and Teesside University offer information, chlamydia tests and condoms through sexual health vending machines for registered users. All sexual health clinics are young people friendly.
LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Questioning)
The Sexual health service offers services to everyone regardless of sexuality. There are several organisations providing further information, advice and support including Hart Gables, MESMAC and Terrance Higgins Trust.
Sexual Abuse, Sexual Exploitation & FGM
Relationship abuse happens to both men and women, of all ages, in relationships of all sexual orientations. It may not always involve physical violence. Threatening and controlling behaviour is also abuse, even if it leaves no physical marks. Abuse can be psychological, emotional, sexual or financial. Abuse is often invisible to those outside the relationship, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. If you think that you are or may have suffered from any form abuse in the past you can contact the sexual health service or any of the other services listed below to find the support you need. In emergencies please contact the policy or go directly to A&E.
My sisters place – Domestic violence service
Harbour – Domestic abuse and violence service
03000 20 25 25
SARC Teesside – Sexual Assault Referral Centre
Arch North East – Rape and sexual abuse counselling
Eva Womens Aid Rape Crisis Service
SEARCH – Sexual Abuse and Rape Counselling
Hartlepool and Stockton - 01429 891 151
Barnardo’s – Sexual Exploitation Children’s Outreach Service
HALO Project – FGM, forced marriage and honour based violence support and advise
01642 683 045
Sexual Health Teesside offers psychosexual counselling for patients with further psychosexual needs.