This web page signposts Havering residents to sources of reliable advice and high quality health care to:
- Prevent, test and treat sexually transmitted infections (STI's)
- Offer effective forms of contraception that will meet your needs and preferences
What is sexual health?
Sexual health covers contraception, relationships, STIs (including HIV) and abortion.
Why should I worry about it?
While sexual relationships are private matters, good sexual health isn’t.
Sexual health is an important part of your physical and mental health, as well as your emotional and social wellbeing.
This means that simply avoiding sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and using effective contraception just won’t do.
It’s important that you seek necessary advice from healthcare professionals but also talk about sex and relationships with your loved ones.
To find out how much you know about safe sex take this short sexual health quiz.
If you or someone you care about is experiencing threatening behaviour or violence within a relationship then find out more at our domestic violence page.
There are 15 different methods of contraception currently available in the UK. The type that works best for you will depend on your health and circumstances.
The NHS Choices website can help you decide what type of contraception is best for you and it provides links to independent sites that may also help. Once you've read this information, you can go to your GP or your local sexual health clinic to discuss your choices.
Remember, the only way to protect yourself against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is to use a condom every time you have sex. Other methods of contraception prevent pregnancy, but they don't protect against STIs.
The "C Card Scheme" allows a registered young person, under the age of 25, who lives, studies or works in Havering to access free condoms from a network of services and colleges. To register with the scheme, visit your nearest outlet and ask to speak with a member of staff about the "C Card Scheme".
Pregnancy and emergency contraception
Emergency contraception can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or if your contraceptive method has failed – for example, a condom has split or you've missed a pill.
There are two types:
- the emergency contraceptive pill (sometimes called the morning after pill)
- the IUD (intrauterine device, or ‘coil’).
Both types of emergency contraception are effective at preventing pregnancy if they are used soon ie within 3 days of unprotected sex. The emergency contraceptive pill is available free from your GP surgery and walk-in centres.
See the NHS Choices website for more information about emergency contraception.
Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives (IUD, IUS and implants) are less likely to fail in real life situations than ‘user’ dependent methods like the pill.
If you think you might be pregnant, you can carry out most pregnancy tests from the first day of a missed period. See the NHS choices website for more information about free pregnancy tests.
If you're pregnant and want to continue with the pregnancy, contact your GP or maternity services at Queens Hospital to start your antenatal care.
If you're not sure about continuing with the pregnancy, you can discuss this confidentially with a health professional at your GP surgery, the sexual health clinics at Queens and Barking Hospitals or organisations such as the Family Planning Association, Brook (for under-25s), British Pregnancy Advisory Service, Marie Stopes UK and National Unplanned Pregnancy Advisory Service.
All these services are confidential.
If you're under 16, staff may encourage you to talk to your parents, but they won't force you to and they won’t talk to your parents or your GP without your permission.
Prevention, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
Prevention of STIs
The best way to protect yourself against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is to use a condom every time you have sex.
If you’re under 25 and living, working or studying in Havering you can access free condoms from a network of services and colleges via the "C Card Scheme"
Could I have a sexually transmitted infection?
Many people with sexually transmitted infections (STIs) don't get symptoms (ie they’re asymptomatic), so it's worth getting tested regularly even if you feel fine.
- Chlamydia is the most common STI amongst young people so annual screening tests are recommended for all sexually active 15 to 24 year olds and on change of sexual partner.
- Men who have sex with men should have an HIV and STI screen at least annually, or every three months if having condomless sex with new or casual partners.
Young people without symptoms who want a chlamydia test can pick one up from the sexual health clinic at Queens Hospital.
Advice, testing and treatment for all STIs is available locally from the sexual health services at Barking Hospital.
Asymptomatic people can go to Queens for an STI test.
You might feel embarrassed, but there's no need - the staff at these clinics are used to testing for all kinds of infections. It's their job and they won't judge you. They will do their best to explain everything to you and make you feel at ease.
Remember - a number of STIs can be cured, for example with antibiotics. However, the longer they remain undetected and untreated the more likely it is that they will cause permanent harm, for example infertility, or be passed on to someone else. So it’s important that STIs are diagnosed early.
Having had an STI once doesn't make you immune to it – you can get the same infection again.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system, and weakens your ability to fight infections and disease.
The virus is found in the body fluids of an infected person such as semen, vaginal and anal fluids, and blood.
The most common way of contracting HIV in the UK is by anal or vaginal sex without a condom.
HIV has no cure, but early (lifelong) treatment can prevent it from causing serious, potentially life threatening illness.
You can avoid HIV infections by using a condom every time you have sex.
If you think you may have contracted HIV, it is important you seek medical advice from GUM services or your GP immediately, as starting treatment sooner rather than later reduces the risk of serious life threatening illness and passing the disease on to someone else.
An anti-HIV emergency pill called PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) can prevent HIV infections if treatment is started within three days of possible exposure.