Review: The High-Tech London Clap Clinic That Spots Your STDs in Seconds

By Duncan Bell on at

What does the below premises look like to you? A reasonably successful PR firms offices? Its location in the heart of Londons Soho certainly reinforces the suspicion. Or maybe it’s an upscale members’ club, where edgy media types gather to gob off and the toilets echo with the urgent tattoo of credit card on porcelain?

Well, no, actually Dean Street Express is a drop-in centre for those who wish to be checked up for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). You knew that from the headline, didnt you? Ive wasted a whole paragraph on this charade! But look at these interior shots and tell me that it's not the nicest pox doctors youve ever clapped eyes on…

Its also incredibly fast and efficient, boasting an impressive array of tech, old and new, from touch screens and pneumatic tubes to an automated molecular scanning device. Its a quiet revolution in sexual healthcare and its (almost) a pleasure to visit.

Dean Street Express is actually the busiest STD clinic in the UK, with 300 visitors a day. Soho is still big with Londons homosexual community, despite the combination of Grindr and greater equality/acceptance making gay-only bars all but redundant in the capital, and they're clearly the target market here, although obviously theres no discrimination against straights. The place is here to deal with people who have no obvious symptoms as such but are worried about their sexual health.

Now, theres no nice way of putting this: theres a lot of sexual disease out there. HIV infection remains a big problem, hepatitis B is coming up on the rails as a long-term menace and then theres Chlamydia and Gonorrhea, who are not, as it turns out, Latvias last Eurovision entry. Oh, and syphilis – thats having a bit of a comeback, too. How deliciously retro and trashy.

To address this, Dean Street Express streamlines the STD clinic experience and makes it as painless and non-embarrassing as possible. In part this is by having you carry out most of the testing procedures yourself and in part through the aforementioned automated molecular scanning device and, y'know, modern science.

I popped in at 10am after attending a very exciting steam-cleaner launch nearby and was out by 10.30am. Thats despite dilly-dallying to take photos for Gizmodo and talk for longer than was strictly necessary with one of the medics, as he was cute. Back at the office, I had test results back for no fewer than five deeply unpleasant ailments, within just six hours of my visit.

How does it work? Heres our "hands on" review, so to speak…

Turn up during office hours and the amount of waiting is somewhere between none and minimal. Monday evenings are far busier – I was quoted a waiting time of two hours when I tried that – so I came back Tuesday morning. But then what kind of idiot turns up an STD clinic on the first evening after a weekend? The kind of idiot who doesnt get laid much.

So first up youre invited to register via a touchscreen or, to be more precise, a tablet thats been nailed to a bench and encased in plastic. All this entails is entering your address, name and mobile number, with your results texted to the latter.

According to the receptionists, the touch screens are Windows-based. Despite this, they work fine responsive, decent keyboard, excellent, full marks. So, here we go

Yep, got that.

Oh, 57 at least. Easy. Okay, 12. Alrightdoes my hand count? 

Note that theyve rather helpfully explained what receptive oral sexis. Because asking "How many dicks have you sucked, mate?" might be coming on a bit strong. But hang on, while I'm filling in this questionnaire, an SMS arrives…

Ive removed the number so you cant pretend your penis is mine. Various labels spool out from behind the touch screen and the receptionist/nurse person hands you the apparatus deemed necessary by your questionnaire responses, from sample bottles, to sealed swabs. With all that in hand, I head here…

Again, pretty swish, like a posh gym. Safely locked within, Im greeted by a large mirror with a video screen embedded in it…

The blue thing is a container holding my swabs and bottles. To the left, that’s a pneumatic tube in which I’ll later place said container once I’ve finished swabbing glands and urinating in bottles. The video mirror tells you everything you need to do, from how to take a throat swab to how to take, er, other types of swab.


Quality swabbing, friend. Top work. Now insert your samples into the tube and… off it goes…

Ending up here, where a guy loads it up and it spits out the results.

Yes indeed, the GeneXpert Infinity automated molecular diagnostic system, no less, and as it says, the first at a sex clinic in the world. Here’s where the magic happens…

Now, one thing you cant actually do here is take blood tests, so I then need to go downstairs to see an actual person in order to test for hep B, HIV and syphilis. The waiting time is maybe five minutes and I get the HIV result within a minute.  

The rest of the results arrive over the next four to six hours by SMS, to the number I registered earlier. As you can see, it’s generally good news. Nothing wrong with me, mate. It’s the kind of thing that helps you rediscover your awe at what science can do.