You’re sat in the waiting room at the clinic. Everyone is sheepishly focused on their phone scrolling and scrolling, or suddenly fascinated by a magazine they must now read cover to cover. Anything to avoid eye contact, because if you saw someone you knew that would be the absolute worst. Right?

Many of us are still hung up on the idea that if someone goes to a sexual health clinic they’ve obviously got something, they’re only there because they’re a slut or because their boyfriend cheated on them. Yes, there probably is some gonorrhoea in the room. In 2015 in England it was the most common STI for gay and bisexual men, increasing by 21%. But that’s why he’s there, or he’s just being responsible and looking out for his own health. Ultimately it’s a good thing.

Getting tested for STIs is easier than ever with specialist clinics, better opening times and the availability of home kits. Any negative attitudes to sex and slut shaming are completely ridiculous when you compare them to other fairly regular health check-ups you might have:

“I heard he was at the dentist again yesterday. He’s such a slut.”

“Been going to the asthma clinic every 6 months? Some guys just deserve it.”

“He had to get new glasses from the opticians. I’ll never look at him the same way now.”

We’ve got some advice on why it’s important that we deal with the sometimes tricky situation of telling someone or being told to go get tested.

Get tested regularly

Getting tested for STIs regularly means you’ll find out if there’s something wrong as soon as possible, get treated and avoid passing it on. Aim to test every six months, or more often if you’re having multiple partners or unprotected anal sex. Common signs of an infection can be pain, a rash or a pus like discharge but not everyone will get symptoms and you could be passing on the infection unknowingly.

Acknowledge the risk

If we’re talking about passing on an infection unknowingly, that’s the key word. When you hooked up with your ex he didn’t intend on giving you chlamydia (unless he’s out for revenge), the guy you fucked off Grindr/Hornet/Scruff/Twitter last week didn’t intentionally give you syphilis (we hope). STIs are spread by people having the same kind of sex with one person and then with another, and that’s a risk both of you take. He got gonorrhoea because someone sucked his dick – without a condom, obviously – and then two weeks later you were perfectly happy to suck his dick too. You both took the same risk.

Get his number

Partner notification is one of the best weapons we have to help fight the spread of STIs. Just asking people to test is a bit like a scattergun, but testing people who might have been exposed to an infection means a better chance at finding and treating them sooner. Even if he’s a one-night stand or a quick hookup, if you can’t contact each other or you block him straight afterwards you might end up missing out on some important information later.

Tell him

OK, so you’ve ended up in the situation where you’ve got an STI. Do the right thing and tell your previous partners. It’s never going to be your favourite conversation but talking face to face will at least show you respect him; after all you’ve already shared so much. Give them their own space to react and process – which usually means finding out what they need to do next. If worst comes to worst a quick text works. If you’re really that worried about telling someone then a sexual health clinic can contact partners on your behalf and make sure they get tested, or there are online anonymous text services.