Specialist
services

Other specialist services

There are many organisations and charities that offer free, trusted and impartial services and advice.

Accessing medication to reduce your chances of getting HIV

PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis)

You can take PEP to prevent HIV infection after being exposed to the HIV virus (through unprotected sex, sharing drug taking equipment or coming into contact with the blood of somebody who is HIV+ and has a detectable viral load).

PEP reduces the risk of acquiring HIV infection if you start taking it within 72 hours of exposure, and ideally within 24. The medication course lasts for one month.

It is available for free from the NHS, so if you think you have been exposed to HIV, it is best to go to your local sexual health or HIV clinic, or if out of hours, PEP should be available in A&E departments.

National support services

Terrence Higgins Trust

Information and a risk calculator to help you work out if you need PEP. You can also call: 0808 802 1221.

PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis)

You can take PrEP before you have sex to reduce the chance of getting HIV. People who are at a higher risk of becoming infected with HIV are advised to take PrEP, this includes men who have sex with men, Black Africans and people who have sex with any HIV positive person who has a detectable viral load.

Clinical trials have proven PrEP to be safe and very effective.

There are two ways to take PrEP, ‘everyday’, or ‘event based’ which is (taking two tablets 2 - 24 hours before sex, one tablet 24 hours and 48 hours after sex). When taking PrEP it is important you attend your local sexual health clinic for regular health checks and STI screens, as PrEP does not protect you from other STIs and may affect your liver function.

In Scotland and Wales PrEP is available in sexual health clinics. It’s not routinely available on the NHS in England (yet) but can still be obtained from a number of places.

National support services & accessing PrEP

NHS England PrEP IMPACT trial

THT offer a hardship fund for people who need PrEP but can’t afford it. Call: 0808 802 1221 for further information.

Terrence Higgins Trust

You can take part in the research trial through your local sexual health clinic. The study does not involve a placebo, so everyone enrolled in the trial will have access to PrEP.

I want PrEP now!

Read about buying generic PrEP online, taking it correctly and the necessary regular monitoring health checks and tests.

56 Dean Street PrEP Shop

You have the option to buy PrEP from Dean St, a London NHS sexual health clinic.

Prepster

Read about accessing PrEP on Prepster a site run by HIV prevention activists.

Living with HIV

HIV is a manageable long-term condition, but when you first get your diagnosis it can come as a shock. You are likely to go through a whole range of emotional responses, you might feel scared, numb, angry, anxious or in denial. It’s really important that you talk to others and don’t isolate yourself during this time. If you feel unable to talk to family, friends or staff at your HIV clinic, you can call a confidential helpline (see below).

Once on HIV treatment your immune system is protected from further damage and can begin to repair and strengthen itself. The goal of treatment is to have an undetectable viral load, once HIV is undetectable it means the virus is no longer transmittable. This is called undetectable=untransmittable (U=U).

National support services

LiV Life

Explore this platform which aims to empower people living with HIV by sharing relevant, up to date information.

AIDS Map

Find out about living with HIV in relation to families, work, the law, transmission, ageing or sex.

Terrence Higgins Trust

Read more from THT about long term health when living with HIV. Or call their helpline: 0808 802 1221.

Mind

Read stories by people living with HIV. Or if you want some help finding where to get help with your mental health near you call: 0300 123 3393, email: info@mind.org.uk or text: 86463.

Papyrus

Speak to someone at Papyrus if you are a young person who is struggling with feeling lost, hopeless or suicidal. Call: 0800 068 41 41.

Sex, drugs and alcohol

The effect of drugs and alcohol can lead you or your partner(s) to do things that you might not usually have chosen to do.

You might find yourself in a situation that is out of your control, or where you are unable to make clear decisions. You might be under pressure to have sex and feel less able to say no.

Chemsex is the use of a certain combination of drugs (chems) before and during sex. The drugs most commonly used during chemsex are Crystal Meth (Tina), GHB/GBL (G), and Mephedrone. Chemsex can affect your work, relationships, social life as you can end up being addicted to certain drugs. Many people will take more sexual risks during chemsex, and have more partners than usual within a short space of time.

If you are involved in chemsex, it is important to keep you and your partner(s) safe.

National support services

Highway code

Read through the first guide to safer drug use produced with, and for people who take drugs.

Talk to Frank

Explore friendly and confidential drug advice.

Childline

Access confidential counselling about anything, for people under the age of 19. Call: 0800 1111.

Friday/Monday

Read free information and advice on staying safer using chems, or trying to break cycles around chems, sex, and/or alcohol use.

Antidote@London Friend

Access telephone advice, weekly drop-ins, counselling, and structured support groups run by London based LGBT charity, who run a specialist support service around chemsex.

Abuse, violence or assault

Sexual assault

Sexual assault occurs when one person touches another person in a sexual way, knowing that they do not have that person’s consent.

If you have experienced any form of sexual assault, specialist sexual assault referral centres (SARC) are available to support you with:

  • emergency contraception
  • immediate specialist support and practical advice
  • forensic examination to collect evidence from the assault (only if you want this to happen)
  • medical aftercare including testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • counselling, psychology and advocacy, to help you recover after the assault.

If you do not want to go to a SARC, you can seek advice, testing and contraception from your local sexual health service.

National support services

Your local SARC

Enter your postcode on the NHS choices search tool to find a sexual assault referral centre near you.

Victim Support

Get confidential help available to anyone who's been raped or sexually assaulted, now or in the past. Call: 0333 300 6389.

Survivors UK

Access counselling and therapy appointments as well as online chat with trained specialists in the field of male sexual assault / violence.

Domestic violence

Domestic violence is when someone abuses another person within an intimate or family relationship. Domestic abuse is the repeated, random and habitual use of intimidation to control another person. The abuse can be physical, emotional, psychological, financial or sexual.

If you feel you need to change your behaviour through a fear of your partner’s reaction, this is abuse.

If you’re in immediate danger, call 999.

Whilst the first steps can be difficult, these organisations will ensure they are as discreet as possible when giving you support or advice.

National support services

National Domestic Violence Helpline

Call this free 24 hour helpline for women experiencing domestic abuse. If you know someone who is being abused you can call for advice and support too: 0808 2000 247.

Mankind Initiative

Find support for men suffering domestic abuse or domestic violence: 01823 334244.

Victim Support

Access free and confidential support to both men and women.

Honour-based violence

Honour-based violence is described as an incident or crime 'which has or may have been committed to protect or defend the honour of a family and/or community.'

'Honour' can be used to motivate, excuse or justify abusive or violent acts committed against an individual.

If you fear bringing shame or dishonour on your family if you don’t do what they ask of you, or if you are worried about being disowned, emotionally or physically abused then you can get help.

National support services

The Halo Project

In an emergency call: 08081 788 424 for free. For other cases of honour-based violence, forced marriage or FGM call: 01642 683045.

Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation

Get help from IKWRO who help Middle Eastern, North African and Afghan women and girls who are living in the UK. They speak Farsi, Kurdish, Arabic, Dari, Pashto, Turkish and English.

Karma Nirvana

Call in confidence: 0800 5999 247. They are a UK based charity that supports victims of honour based violence and forced marriage.

National Domestic Violence Helpline

Call this free 24 hour helpline for women experiencing domestic abuse. If you know someone who is being abused you can call for advice and support too: 0808 2000 247.

Forced marriage

Forced marriage is when someone is being married against their will, it is illegal in the UK. This is not the same as the cultural practice of arranged marriage, which is when individuals both agree to take part in a marriage that is set up by their families.

A forced marriage is often the result of psychological pressure, emotional blackmail or physical violence.

If you are in immediate danger call: 999.

National support services

The Forced Marriage Unit

A public helpline to provide advice and support to victims of forced marriage as well as to professionals dealing with cases: 020 7008 0151 or email: fmu@fco.gov.uk.

The Halo Project

In an emergency call: 08081 788 424 for free. For other cases of honour-based violence, forced marriage or FGM call: 01642 683045.

Southall Black Sisters

Read through advice on what to do if you fear being forced into a marriage.

Karma Nirvana

Call in confidence: 0800 5999 247. They are a UK based charity that supports victims of honour based violence and forced marriage.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) or Female Genital Cutting

FGM is when a girl's genital area is cut, altered or removed. These procedures are most often carried out by people with no medical training. The victims are not given anaesthetic or antiseptic treatment and are often forced to keep still. FGM causes life-long physical damage and emotional distress.

As FGM is so serious, the person you tell has a duty to inform other professional bodies if you are under 18.

National support services

Forward

Contact Forward if you, or someone you know, is at risk of FGM or has been affected by FGM. They are an African women-led organisation working to end violence against women and girls. Call: 0208 960 4000 or 07834 168 141 or email: support@forwarduk.org.uk.

Daughters of Eve

Find details of specialist FGM clinics around the UK where you can access advice and support.

The Halo Project

In an emergency call: 08081 788 424 for free. For other cases of honour-based violence, forced marriage or FGM call: 01642 683045.

Trafficking

‘Trafficking’ is moving a person from one place to another for the purposes of exploitation. Traffickers are known to force, coerce or deceive people into travelling, or may lie about where they are taking the person or why in order to encourage them to travel willingly.

Victims of trafficking are often physically, sexually and/or psychologically abused.

If you are a victim of trafficking or you know someone who might be, there are organisations who can provide you with support and advice.

National support services

Human Trafficking Foundation

Locate local services on their map of services throughout the UK available to help trafficked people.

Eaves Poppy Project

Access support, advocacy and accommodation for trafficked women: 020 7735 2062.

Gangs

If you’re involved with a gang and feel pressured to have sex or to do things you do not want to, then there is support available.

You have the right to say no if you do not want to have sex. Nobody is allowed to force someone else to have sex with them or with someone else. If your partner doesn’t want to have sex, you should respect their choice.

You should never be pressured into having sex. ‘Pressure’ can include:

  • being made to feel scared or uncomfortable by the person or people you are having sex with
  • being made to do something sexual that you don’t want to do
  • feeling that you can’t say no to sex
  • being told that if you loved your partner you would say yes.

If any of these things have happened to you there are people you can talk to about your relationship. If you’re ever worried about sex, or you’re worried about your contact with a gang, you don’t have to deal with it alone.

National support services

Gangsline

Gangsline is a non-profit organisation established in 2007 to provide help and support to young men and women involved in gang culture, call free: 0800 032 9538.

NSPCC

Advice for people who know young people who are involved with a gang. Read real people’s stories, watch videos or call their helpline.

Childline

Confidential service for people up to the age of 19. You can contact a Childline counsellor about anything.

Hepatitis vaccinations

Hepatitis A vaccination

The Hepatitis A virus is most commonly spread during anal sexual contact or in places where there is poor sanitation.

Hepatitis A damages the liver. Although it does not usually cause long term health problems, it can make you unwell soon after you are infected.

Sexual health clinics can offer the Hepatitis A vaccine for free if you are at high sexual risk of acquiring the virus. Learn more about NHS Hepatitis A vaccinations on NHS choices.

If you are travelling to countries with poor sanitation, you can pay for a vaccine at your GP or a travel clinic.

Hepatitis B vaccination

The Hepatitis B virus is passed on through infected blood or bodily fluids. It damages your liver and may increase your risk of developing liver cirrhosis or cancer.

The Hepatitis B vaccine is three or four injections over 6-12 months. It is a safe vaccine with very few side effects that hugely reduces the risk of acquiring the virus.

You will need to get your immunity levels checked a few years after vaccination.

NHS sexual health services can offer the Hepatits B vaccine for free if you are at high sexual risk (e.g. men who have sex with men, injecting drug users, people with partners from high risk countries, sex workers or people who use the services of sex workers, etc.). Learn more about NHS Hepatitis B vaccinations on NHS choices.

Common concerns about sex

It’s common to experience some physical, emotional or psychological sexual difficulty at some point in your life. Lots of things can effect the way you feel about and experience sex such as anxiety, relationship troubles, stress or medication side effects.

Your local sexual health clinic or GP should be able to explore if there might be physical or psychological causes and discuss potential treatment options to help make sex easier, more pleasurable or less painful. NHS clinics should also have associated psychosexual counselling services that can provide information, support and treatment with sexual problems.

You may notice your sexual needs or desires start affecting your relationships, finances or job and you may want some help managing this. Or you may be struggling with a low sex drive, or ‘libido’ and want to explore ways to enjoy sex more. It is common for females to experience some pain during sex or find it difficult to reach an orgasm. It is also estimated that 1 in 10 men are affected by premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction.

National support services

Relate

Find relationship support through free telephone, online counselling or local support services, you can also find reccommended sex and relationship therapists to pay to see.

Sexual Advice Association

Read through factsheets about common sexual difficulties.

Association for the Treatment of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity (ATSAC)

Find information and support on sex addiction and compulsivity.

Sexaholics Anonymous

Get support with lust, sex or pornography addiction at local meetings or on their 24 hour helpline: 0300 111 7777.

Contraception & pregnancy

Contraception is primarily used by people who want to avoid becoming pregnant, whilst some people benefit from the positive side effects such as improving acne or regulating periods.

Contraception is free on the NHS and there are 15 types available, including pills, coils, condoms, implants and injectables. Many people will try a few types of contraception before they find one that suits them most.

The only method that also protects against STIs are condoms.

If you find out you are pregnant and want some advice there is lots of information available online, or you can go to your local sexual health clinic or GP.

National support services

SH:24

Learn about each method, side effects, how they work and read FAQs. You can also compare options side by side, or answer a simple set of questions to check which methods are likely to be most suitable for you.

Sexwise

To find out more about reproductive health, explore the Sexwise site. They have lots of information about contraception, pregnancy planning and where to get help if you are pregnant and unsure whether you want to continue with your pregnancy.

NHS Choices

Read practical information about choosing a method of contraception, where to get emergency contraception and common questions about using contraceptives.

In an emergency

If you have been at risk of contracting HIV in the last 3 days, or had unprotected sex within the last 5 days, find your local sexual health service, or if out of hours, find your local A&E department to start PEP or access emergency contraception.

If you have been sexually assaulted, find your local specialist sexual assault referral centre (SARC) or find other support services below.

STIs

Learn more about other STIs including chlamydia, gonorrhoea, herpes, warts or BV. Sexually transmitted infections can be passed through unprotected oral, anal or vaginal sex or intimate contact.

Learn more

Genital health

Read about how to take care of yourself in relation to periods, cervical screening, fertility, menopause, erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, checking your testicles, or sterilisation.

Learn more