Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the UK, with the majority of cases diagnosed in people under the age of 25.
The infection is largely ‘silent’, meaning that majority of people won’t experience any symptoms. However, if left untreated it can lead to serious health implications, such as affecting pregnancy and even causing infertility, therefore supporting the need for frequent testing.
Throughout the UK, the National Chlamydia Screening Programme (NCSP) run outreach programmes, which involve mobile testing units and educating people about sexual health.
Secondary school students may receive sexual health lessons as part of their PSHE lessons (personal, social, health and economic education), with teaching regarding safe sex, the health consequences of STIs and the importance for testing.
“We aim to educate young people and normalise the idea of sexual health testing,” says Mr Tapiwa Zhou, the Chlamydia screening co-ordinator for the London Borough of Brent.
“There are a lot of myths that young people believe surrounding sexual health. If you have a headache, you would visit a GP. If you break your hand, you would go to A&E. But when something goes wrong ‘down stairs’, people often suffer in silence” – Tapiwa Zhou
The mobile testing units are as simple as a small stand located in a place where young people can be found. In a university entrance, passing students are attracted by a table lined with freebies; given as an ‘incentive’ for completing a chlamydia test.
The test itself is simple. A person is given a pot to collect a urine sample, then after some brief detailing taking, the co-ordinator can send the sample off for testing. The results are sent via text the following week; any positive results are referred to a clinic for treatment.
A student who uses the service said, “Screening at uni makes it more accessible and it means you don’t have to queue for a clinic.”
Walk-in GUM (Genitourinary medicine) clinics can be found all all over the UK, which can be attended whether a person is experiencing symptoms or not. The clinics will involve a doctor or a nurse asking you questions regarding your sexual health, you will be asked to provide both a urine and blood sample and there many also be a genital examination if necessary. Results are similarly given several days later, in a format of your preference.
Click on the links below to learn more about chlamydia and sexual health testing.