What is a sexual health clinic?

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If you have questions or concerns about your sexual health, it’s understandable you may not know where to start.

Sexual health clinics are available in many communities across Canada. They often offer a wide variety of services for sexual, physical and mental health such as:

  • birth control (often low and no-cost options)
  • sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing/treatment
  • emergency contraception
  • hormone therapy
  • pregnancy testing
  • referrals (for medical treatment not offered in-house)
  • abortions
  • counselling
  • vaccinations

At a sexual health clinic, you’ll also have the opportunity to talk to a health-care professional, such as a:

  • doctor
  • nurse
  • nurse practitioner (a nurse with further training)
  • social worker

Here, Kids Help Phone interviews Planned Parenthood Toronto (PPT) to learn more about what young people can expect at a sexual health clinic.

“Each sexual health clinic is a little different. At PPT, we offer a range of sexual and reproductive health services alongside our mental health services, primary care and community programming.”

“At PPT, clients can expect a youth-positive, respectful and sex-positive experience. Youth arrive, register and are taken into an exam room by their provider. Once in the exam room, they would tell their provider about why they are there. Our providers have heard it all, so the best thing a client can do is tell our providers what brought them into the clinic that day. Then, they can work together to make a plan.”

“We think that folks should come any time they have a question about their sexual or reproductive health, even if they aren’t sexually active.”

“The most common reason for a visit to PPT is for birth control or STI testing/treatment.”

“Our services are free to youth 13 to 29 who have OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) or are making Toronto their home.”

“No. In fact, we don’t see clients for emergencies per se. We offer emergency contraception, but for medical emergencies, clients should go to the closest emergency room.”

“If you have a list of medications that you’re already on, it’s good to bring that. A good trick is to take a picture of your pill bottle or package and show it to our clinicians when you arrive. If you happen to have your immunization record, that helps as well.”

“We have a blend of drop-in and scheduled appointments. We can offer telemedicine appointments for some services, but this is limited and determined on a case-by-case basis.”

“Ensuring our space is youth-positive is really important to PPT. We try to keep things informal with lots of music and information fact sheets in the waiting room. There are no lab coats and everyone goes by their first name. All appointments are in a private space. Being non-judgmental is in our blood.”

“We offer anonymous HIV testing, otherwise, clients have to register to receive services. Registration involves providing us with your name, contact information, health card (if you have one) and demographic information. Keeping this information private and confidential is extremely important to us — only folks who need this information have access to it.”

“Not at all. If you are 13 to 29, you don’t need to bring anyone with you, get anyone’s permission or tell anyone about your visit. That said, if you want to bring a support person, you are welcome to.”

e.g. for Indigenous youth, 2SLGBTQ+ youth; support in a variety of languages, etc.

“Yes. We do lots of training with our staff so that they can provide culturally competent services to clients with varied experiences. We also offer translation services to folks who prefer to receive services in another language.”

“That all we do is abortions.”

“Know that health care is your right and that your provider is there to serve you. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind and give feedback if the service you receive wasn’t what you expected or wasn’t respectful or non-judgmental.”

If you’re looking for support with your sexual health, you can reach out to a doctor/nurse, counsellor or sexual health clinic for more information. You can also use Resources Around Me to search for sexual and other health services in your area.

Kids Help Phone would like to thank Planned Parenthood Toronto for their participation in this story!