Look after your sexual health – get checked

Getting our sexual health checked isn’t something that most of us think about often. But sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) are more common than you think.

It’s Sheffield’s Sexual Health Month in November and we are urging people to get checked, for their own health, and to reduce the spread of sexually transmitted infections to other unsuspecting people.

In the last year, Sheffield ’s STI clinic treated 4,700 people for infections and 2,658 for chlamydia. It also welcomed nearly 10,000 brand new service users and saw over 35,000 visits to the Sexual Health Sheffield clinic.

In terms of numbers, our rates of infection are below the national average but Sexual Health month is a reminder to everyone that it’s important to reduce the spread of STI’s. Reducing the stigma of testing will help to do this as some people still feel uncomfortable even asking questions about STI’s.

All testing is free, confidential, quick and simple – and nothing to worry about. It couldn’t be easier to do either. You can visit the Sheffield Sexual Health Clinic, order home self-testing STI kits at www.sexualhealthsheffield.nhs.uk, call 0114 2268888 or visit a pop up STI testing site which will be at various locations, including the Moor Market, throughout November.

Rebecca Mawson, a GP at Valley Medical Centre said: Sexual health is an important aspect of your physical and mental well-being. Getting screened is easy to do and just involves a simple urine test for men and a self-swab for women (plus a blood test for infections like HIV).

There is no need to be embarrassed about speaking to your GP or practice nurse about sex or sexuality – the taboo around sexual health is a thing of the past.

I have had a number of patients who I see in general practice who have been diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections but did not have any symptoms at all, they thought they were fine. Get checked and stay sexually healthy.

Lots of people receive STI checks throughout the year. Last month 1,377 patients had tests at 45  chlamydia screening sites, 2,383 individual patients were seen for appointments, 239 patients took away a kit for a friend to do and 1375 tests were done at outreach events, GP surgeries, colleges and hospitals.

People of all ages get tests across the city; over 143 people over 50 were seen and 37 of those were over 60.

People might not know that you can even check for STI’s yourself – in the last year over 3,000 website kits were mailed out for people to do at home.

As well as testing over 15,000 condoms were given out from our clinics last month.

National HIV testing week is 18th -25th November too. Nearly half of the people diagnosed with HIV in the UK are diagnosed late, after they should have already started treatment so we are encouraging people to get the test if they think they might be at risk. 4,225 HIV tests have been carried out in the city over the last six months and people are encouraged get checked and put their mind at rest.

Councillor Jackie Drayton, Cabinet Member for Children and Families said: We’re glad that most people take care of their sexual health by getting tested. This definitely reduces the number of STI’s in the city. Once you’re tested, you’re in the know and you don’t have to wonder or worry about whether you are clear or not. With some STI’s having no symptoms it’s best to get checked rather than caught out.

Karen Rogstad, Clinical Lead, Sexual Health Sheffield  said: “There is an increasing number of people being infected with gonorrhoea and syphilis across England and locally in Sheffield. There are also people being newly diagnosed with HIV. You may have no symptoms with any of these infections so testing is the only way to know if you require treatment which can be given to keep you fit and well. So if you have been putting off getting tested or not considered it before, make November your month for action.”

For more information on STI’s, pop up STI testing sites and the services available, visit: www.sexualhealthservices.nhs.uk