Sexual health is becoming increasingly important as more and more of us become sexually active at a younger age. A number of surveys have shown that the average number of sexual partners a person has in a lifetime is steadily increasing. Although people are aware that sexually transmitted diseases exist, too many are becoming flippant about the risks involved in unprotected sex. As a result, pressure and demand for NHS sexual health services are rapidly increasing.
A BBC article has recently reported that last year alone, over 3 million people visited sexual health clinics in England. This number is a huge increase on numbers reported in 2013, and amid likely NHS spending cuts, is soon to be unsustainable.
Recognising Sexual Health Issues
Sexually transmitted diseases come in many forms. Here are just five of the most prominent STIs in the UK today.
- Chlamydia – often symptomless, but if left untreated can lead to infertility, and more serious infections such as pelvic inflammation.
- Genital herpes – begins with small blisters on the vulva or penis.
- Gonorrhea – symptoms vary between men and women, with women sometimes experiencing no symptoms while men may experience penile discharge and pain when urinating.
- HIV/AIDS – HIV is a disease which weakens the immune system, leaving the sufferer vulnerable to any form of disease or infection.
- Hepatitis – an inflammatory liver condition that can come in a number of forms including hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
These are just a snapshot of the types of sexual health issues that our NHS sexual health services deal with, however, other things also come under the heading of sexual health. These are things which may not initially come to mind, and include the following:
- Sexual assault services
- Sexual problems
Sexual Health At Home
To help reduce the pressure on the NHS, it is possible to get sexual health tests online to test for certain STIs, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and even HIV. These can either be bought privately, or you can visit www.sh24.org.uk, an NHS site which provides free at-home tests. Contraception can also be acquired online from legitimate and reputable pharmacies.
Local Sexual Health Services
Your GP isn’t the only one who can help you if you have a sexual health concern. Pharmacies also provide free sexual health advice, as well as providing emergency contraception in the form of the morning after pill. This can be provided free to young people aged 13 to 19.
Time to Test is East Berkshire’s STI testing clinic, which can be accessed on an appointment or a drop-in basis. Alongside this the NHS run Genitourinary Medical clinics (GUM clinics) which also specialise in diagnosing and treating sexually transmitted infections. Your local GUM clinic – The Garden Clinic – can be found at St Mark’s Hospital, Maidenhead.
For help in the case of sexual assault, you can turn to your local Sexual Assault Referral Centre who will provide help and advice without the need to make an appointment. Your local SARC can be found at The Solace Centre in Slough. Fertility advice can be found at www.royalberkshire.nhs.uk, where you will find opening times of the Royal Berkshire Hospital fertility clinic.