What Exactly is a GUM Clinic?

If you'd never encountered the term GUM clinic before, you could be forgiven for thinking that it was a surgery where you'd go to seek the services of a dental hygienist. But once you discover that the letters GUM stand for (Genito-Urinary Medicine), you'll quickly realise that GUM clinics are in fact sexual health clinics, and thus fulfil a rather different role!

So what exactly does "genito-urinary medicine" mean? And what happens at a GUM clinic?

As its name suggests, genito-urinary medicine deals with the urinary system and the male and female sex organs. At a GUM clinic, medical professionals will be able to test you for STIs and then prescribe appropriate treatment if you are unfortunate enough to have contracted an infection.

You can also be tested for various UTIs (urinary tract infections), including the bladder infection known as cystitis and the urethra infection known as urethritis. As any cystitis sufferer will testify, this condition can cause extreme discomfort, so it is comforting to know that treatments are available to help alleviate the condition's unpleasant symptoms, which include a painful burning sensation experienced when urinating.

Thrush (or "candida," to give it its proper medical name) and other infections of the genital area can also be diagnosed and treated at a GUM centre. All advice and treatment is administered free of charge, and information is always handled in complete confidence. This means that you can speak with GUM clinic staff frankly and openly, safe in the knowledge that anything you tell them will not be passed on to any third parties.

Sexual health clinics are often, but not always, located at a hospital or in a health centre. The range of sexual health services that these clinics provide is extensive. Services include HIV testing and counselling, contraception and contraception advice, testing and treatment for STIs, emergency contraception as well as contraception advice.

So whatever your query regarding sexual health, you'll find trained experts at your local GUM clinic who can answer all your questions regarding genito-urinary issues. If you do have any concerns, a visit to a GUM clinic could allay your fears or help you to deal with any problem that you may have.

Do bear in mind that some sexually transmitted infections don't exhibit any symptoms, but if your regular partner has been diagnosed with an STI or you have had unprotected sex, it would definitely be worth having a check-up.

Chlamydia, for example, is one STI that often remains symptomless, but one that it really pays to catch early. Once diagnosed, it can be treated quickly and effectively, thereby reducing the risks of long-term damage to the female reproductive system. However, if left untreated, it carries a long-term risk of infertility, which may well cause heartbreak a few years down the line, just when you're ready to settle down and hoping to start a family.

If you want to find STI testing services in your local area, you can check online using your postcode. Alternatively, you could consult the phone book under Sexual Health. If, on the other hand, you're concerned that you might attend a centre where someone could recognise you, you can equally well be tested at a clinic that's further afield, as GUM clinics are located the length and breadth of the UK.