Having an STI needn't be a disaster nor the end of sexual activity, but being honest about your health, and taking the appropriate precautions, is very important, especially with so much trust involved. So what's it like going to a clinic?
The one I frequent is about as dully NHS as it gets. It's situated in a grey building along a great alleyway. The reception staff are bored and indifferent. The chairs plastic and uncomfortable. The TV blares out boring nonsense without taking into consideration what you may be going through.
After filling out a form (who I am, the state of my health, why I'm here) I join the seated men. Women are sent to another floor; only penises are perused here. The average age is late twenties to early thirties. At the time I visit it's mainly suits. And most are probably considered attractive. Looking for young, besuited, good-looking and responsible men? You now know where to go.
Now; the interview. My lifestyle, sexual orientation, how sexually active I am etc. The person who asks the questions is always friendly and non-judgemental. Time to pee into the jar (alone) and those awkward few minutes of having to hold the now-warm plastic before seeing the nurse.
The last nurse I saw was a big bear of a man. Very chatty and entirely lovely. As he took my blood for the HIV test I considered how difficult a job it must sometimes be, having to occasionally deliver horrible news and the rest of the time being cheerful despite the drab surroundings.
There's a choice when getting the HIV test; find out now or later. I always opt for now, never wanting to seed unnecessary thoughts which may grow into paranoia. The jar is labelled and dispatched to the lab to check for chlamydia and gonorrhoea (I hate that word).
A few weeks later I call for the results and there's always that terrible game show pause as the information is found. Did I win or lose? Clear. But out of respect for G and those others I have sex with, condoms remain one of my essential rules. Honesty, trust and responsibility; common themes in alternative lifestyles.