The thought of having a sexually transmitted infection (STI) is a harrowing thought to say the least. Whilst posters and leaflets are plastered all around universities and doctors’ surgeries, we can all feel pretty invincible at times, believing that we could never contract such a thing. However, statistics provided by the Public Health England report in 2015 show that there were over 400,000 cases in 2014, with under 25’s being predominantly affected.
At university, there is a greater sense of freedom, especially if you are living away from home. With parents out of the equation, students are able to drink booze, stay out until the early morning and have sex with whomever they so wish. Some may say it is the dream. Others may say that it’s a disaster just waiting to happen.
Whilst there is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying the pleasures of sex, it’s important to practice it safely by using a condom, particularly with the increase of sexually transmitted infections. Yes, the pill can prevent a girl from getting pregnant but it most certainly won’t stop her from catching an STI.
STIs are passed from one person to another through sexual or genital contact. The most common infections are Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, Genital Warts, Trichomoniasis, Herpes and HIV. Whilst many of these are treatable through a course of antibiotics and creams, it can all be avoided by simply putting a hat on it.
Not only is it important to use a condom, it is also vital that you visit a sexual health or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic or GP surgery regularly to get yourself checked. It’s important for your own health, but also for those who could have a potential infection themselves.
The NHS recommends that you should get checked every six months if you are sexually active and every time you have a new sexual partner.
Admittedly, going to the clinic can often be an embarrassing and nerve racking experience if it is your first time, but myths that imply getting checked is a painful and scary process need to be put to bed. It goes without saying that nobody gets excited for a day trip to the clinic to be prodded about, but it’s really not as bad as some might make it out to be.
Getting checked out is a fairly simple process. First of all, you will be asked to complete a form providing details about yourself, sexual partners and whether you have any symptoms. You will then be referred to a nurse who will go over these details and you will then be seated to wait to be called in. Usually, women are able to do a self-swap by inserting a cotton bud inside the vagina and having their blood taken by a nurse. Men often provide a urine sample and a blood test as well.
Results usually come through in seven to ten working days, after which you will be advised as to what the next steps are through either text message or a letter. Don’t worry though, they will only contact you by your method of choice and it is always confidential.
So where to get checked? In Portsmouth, there are numerous places that provide these services.
St Mary’s Community Health Campus in St Mary’s hospital is the most popular location to get checked for university students living in Portsmouth. This particular clinic runs by appointments, which you can find out more details about online. You can also order free kits to test yourself from home through the website https://www.letstalkaboutit.nhs.uk/forms/request-kit.asp. However, be aware that online services only tests for chlamydia.
So to wrap it up, quite literally. It’s always best to get yourself checked, always use a condom, and remember, doctors’ surgeries will always provide contraceptive measures for free upon request.