First Person Stories: Getting a diagnosis

So, let’s start from the beginning with Herpes Lab Tests… In 2016, I had just started University. Loving my new ‘adult’ life. But I was quickly brought back to reality when I knew something wasn’t 100% right ‘down there’… Like most overthinking teens, I rushed to Google. I searched for my symptoms, and the first thing that came up was herpes. My stomach dropped as I knew I couldn’t just ignore this… This wasn’t just going to disappear magically. I called up the local sexual health clinic, booked an appointment and anxiously waited. The nurse took one look and confirmed it was herpes. They also got confirmation through an STD Profile Test.

This is the point where I should clarify what herpes is… Genital herpes is an STI passed on through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. In the UK, about 70% will have an infection of herpes by their 25th birthday. A Herpes at-home PCR lab test usually confirms it. Most people who have herpes don’t develop symptoms, hence why it’s so easily transmitted. I was sent on my way with my antibiotics in hand, genuinely thinking my life was never going to be the same again.

Can you tell I’m a drama queen yet??

From previous negative experiences at college of people being outed for having STIs, I kept my news private and only told a small circle of people. This resulted in me becoming fixated on the fact I couldn’t shake this part of my life away, which caused me to become extremely stressed and anxious, which (surprise) caused more herpes tests and outbreaks. The problem with this is it meant I couldn’t heal. By keeping it a secret, I was still creating shame that I had herpes when, in fact, there’s nothing to be ashamed of.

It was only when I reached out to a mental health specialist via my University that I started to accept and process my new sexual identity. By openly talking about how my sexual health And STD tests were coinciding with my mental health, I was able to pinpoint certain triggers that were making my mental and sexual health outbreaks worse. For example, attending uni during the day and working at night caused me to constantly panic that I wasn’t resting enough and inevitably got more outbreaks.

Like any medical diagnosis, it can affect people completely differently, and it can be a learning process to find ways to manage your symptoms personally. For myself, my herpes outbreaks were mostly brought on by stress. So, accepting that I had an STD was a huge factor in improving my overall health and moving forward.

4 years later

I can safely say those overwhelmingly anxious thoughts and triggers are past me. I became comfortable with the fact there is NOTHING to be ashamed of, and I shouldn’t feel alone (remember, 70% of the UK have herpes by the age of 25) …

It can completely feel like this new diagnosis is going to be the bane of your life forever, but it doesn’t have to be. When I first got outbreaks, I would fall into a pattern of shaming myself for even getting it in the first place and feel isolated because I wouldn’t tell anyone why I was feeling so exhausted and poorly. Now, I can confidently tell my partner and friends when I have an outbreak and give myself the self-care I need (usually a warm bath with Epsom salts and lots of rehydration).

I’m so open that my friend and I did an entire Instagram Live talking about it, which you can find here.

Where to go for more support

If you want to learn more about your sexual health, visit our page all about – link “exploring Sexual Health”. Here, we explain what to expect when getting an STD panel test and how to avoid STIs with contraception. Talking about sex can feel challenging at the best of times, let alone talking about STIs. However, if you find yourself at the clinic waiting for a diagnosis, you are NOT alone, and there is support for you.

Here are some great, non-judgmental sites to have a look at if you want to learn more:

Brook – A great charity offering clinical sexual health services and education and wellbeing services for young people.

SH24 – An NHS-funded, 24-hour service offering sexual health advice and testing.

Rise Above – A platform all about sharing our experiences, challenges and questions.

Sexual health coincides with your mental health. It is completely normal to feel like your sexual health affects your mental health (and vice versa).

If you feel this is the case, you can chat with someone online via text and register for ongoing Herpes Tests via our online support portal. We also hold weekly drop-in sessions so you can speak with a worker without an appointment. 

Don’t be ashamed

We need you to know STDs are 100% common and normal and should NOT be ashamed. 

Just to put it in perspective – “More than 1 million sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are acquired EVERY DAY worldwide” – World Health Organisation.

However, STD Tests aren’t fun and are best to avoid where possible. Let’s talk about how we can help prevent them. We advise you to:

Use external or internal condoms during intercourse or while using sex toys (however, they do not prevent ALL STDs). Thankfully, you can get condoms for free from most sexual health clinics and many LGBTQ+ venues. You can also purchase condoms at any age.

Get a Herpes test, along with your partner/s, before any sexual activities.

Sometimes, you can follow all the rules and advice and still get an STD. It’s REALLY important to get a test as soon as you show symptoms.

What to expect when visiting a sexual clinic

Even though clinics are different in how they run, the appointment process is generally the same.

Appointment/walk-in. You can book an STD Appointment Test online or via phone, which might have similar waiting times to general doctor’s appointments. Walk-ins work on a first-come-first-served basis, so getting there as soon as possible is important. Sometimes, with walk-ins, they will slot you in for a certain time that day and tell you to come back for that time slot.

Name and details. When you arrive, they will ask for your name and some contact details. You don’t have to give your real name if you don’t want to, but it will remain confidential if you do. Your GP won’t be told about your visit without your permission. They will also ask how you would like to receive your results (phone, email, text, or unmarked letter).


Once you see the doctor or nurse, they will ask you some questions about your medical and sexual history, such as:

  • When you last had sex
  • Whether you had unprotected sex
  • Whether you have any symptoms
  • Why do you think you might have an infection


They will want to examine the affected area to decide whether you need any Herpes Home tests and treatment. They will leave the room and pull a curtain to give you privacy while you remove your clothes (only clothes blocking the affected area, e.g., pants or trousers). After an examination, the doctor or nurse may explain what they believe you might have just from their observation.

STD lab tests – The doctor or nurse will tell you what tests they think you might have to take. The tests may involve:

  • A urine sample
  • A blood sample