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Finding sexual health services

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

You are never far from sexual health services in the US. Dedicated clinics are there for phone consultations or visits, online services can mail out testing kits for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and your doctor is also a source of advice, testing, and prescriptions.

Needs can vary widely, but most people request access to STI tests such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV and hepatitis, emergency contraception, and regular contraception. Clinics may offer hepatitis B vaccination if you are at risk or emergency HIV treatment if you think you’ve been exposed. They can also advise on safe sex, high-risk behavior, sexual assault or rape, and anonymous contact tracing for a sexual partner or partners if you have tested positive for an STI.

Doctor’s advice

How do I find a local clinic?

You can find a local sexual health clinic by typing your zip code into any search engine. You don’t have to be a local resident. Similarly, online services are available anywhere in the US, and STI test kits can be mailed anywhere in the US.

Your doctor’s office usually requires you to be a resident within a specific boundary to be eligible to register and to stay in their records.

How do I get emergency contraception?

Emergency contraception needs to be taken as quickly as possible after you’ve had unprotected sex, and certainly within five days. The most effective method is to have a copper coil (intrauterine device or IUD) fitted, which will prevent pregnancy and protect you in the future, but this isn’t always urgently available at a sexual health clinic or doctor’s office.

A tablet known as the morning-after pill is the most common method. Tablets are available after consultation with a sexual health clinic, contraception clinic, your doctor, at the Emergency Department, or a pharmacy. They might speak to you on the phone, see you in person, and give you a paper or electronic prescription. Your clinician will decide which is appropriate, depending on your other health conditions and the time since you had unprotected sex.

What do I pay?

Sexual health testing and treatment are usually free for everyone, regardless of age, sex-identified gender, or sexual orientation. Contraception consultation and medication are also usually free from prescription charges.

Emergency contraception is usually free. Check with your sexual health clinic or pharmacy.

Who needs to know?

If a sexual health clinic has provided remote or in-person services, they will not write to your doctor unless you ask them to, and notes will remain confidential and reside in the clinic.

If you visit your doctor’s office or Emergency Department, this will be in your health records, electronic files kept by your doctor. These notes are confidential and unavailable to others. There is a rare occasion for confidentiality to be broken, only in cases where you are at serious risk of harming yourself or others.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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