The problem of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) is getting worse in the UK and, according to the Local Government Association, as many as 3.3 million people attended STD clinics in the UK last year. The issue for these clinics is chronic underfunding at a time when cases of STDs like chlamydia are spiking.
The Association has pointed out that record numbers of people are turning up for treatment at STD clinics but many are turned away because there is no further capacity. And the problem looks set to get worse. The government wants to cut £300 million from its public health budget by 2020. This is likely to place STD clinics under even greater strain with British patients forced to seek alternatives.
The president of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV was reported by the BBC as saying that cutbacks in sexual health funding could not be worse timed. Dr Olwen Williams went on to say that many clinics are struggling to cope with the current level of demand, despite valiant efforts from staff.
The Family Planning Association (FPA) have publicly agreed with this view citing concerns that STDs are more likely to be passed on if patients cannot access services, thereby intensifying the issue.
Given these problems with public health in the UK, what should you do if you believe you may have contracted an STD?
Don’t Ignore an STD
Despite the aforementioned problems, one thing is for sure – you should never ignore a suspected STD. Nor should you simply hope that it will go away. Testing yourself is a good first step and you can obtain kits simply enough online. In the meantime, avoid sexual contact with others or you might pass something on! To be completely sure and to get a proper diagnosis, you will need to access professional medical services.
Should You See a Doctor?
If you have had unprotected sex or the condom you were using came off during intercourse and you think you may have contracted an STD, then you should see a doctor or attend an STD clinic. Maybe you have only found out later that someone you had sex with has an STD and you need to set your mind at ease?
Since many people don’t want to see their GP about an STD, the anonymity of an STD clinic is often preferred. In the UK, such clinics are referred to as genito-urinary medicine (GUM) services. You can find ones local to you via the NHS website.
Why Go to a GUM Clinic?
Some people are embarrassed to strip off and bare all during a consultation with a GP. Although patient confidentiality is a serious matter, some people worry about others finding out why they have booked a consultation with their family doctor.
In some cases, despite the pressures on them, attending a GUM clinic can be more convenient than waiting for a doctor’s appointment. Whether you see a GP or not, the important thing is to have an STD test.
If that means booking an online consultation with a qualified doctor who can assess you over the internet, then so be it. The crucial thing is to seek help so that you don’t suffer and potentially pass your STD on to others.
How Are STDs Treated?
Common STDs – such as chlamydia, genital warts, herpes genitalis and gonorrhoea – can be treated in similar ways. An ointment or an antibiotic is often enough to treat the infection effectively. The bad news is that some conditions will never completely go away. However, their associated symptoms can be treated with the correct medication.
The Consequences of Inaction
Your general health is likely to deteriorate if you do not treat an STD. They frequently cause very unpleasant symptoms and can have serious health outcomes. In some cases, you might experience pain during intercourse. You could also become permanently infertile or very ill. If you have contracted HIV and this is not treated, then you will eventually end up with AIDS, a fatal disease.
Perhaps more importantly still, inaction means that you can infect someone who could feasibly go on to infect another – and so the problem spirals out of control.
You can choose to see a doctor who can investigate whether you have contracted an STD from the age of 16 without the need for parental consent. From that age, you don’t have to worry that your parents will be informed because all doctors have a duty of confidentiality. This means that they can never talk to others about their health without the consent of their patients.
You are in a high-risk group if you:
– Are younger than 25
– Have STD-like symptoms already
– Are a man who has sex with men
– Are a prostitute
– Have had sex with more than three different people in the last six months
– Have been warned about an STD by someone you have had sex with
Self-Testing for STDs
Those who don’t want to go to their GP and who cannot access a GUM clinic can opt for an STD self-test. These are available online and can be ordered discreetly. An STD self-test allows you to discover whether or not you have an infection which you’d then need to treat. The advantage of them is that you can carry out the test at home at a time that suits you.
You send the test material to a laboratory and after a few days, you can simply check your results online. It is then possible to opt for a treatment. In fact, with some self-tests, you can find out the result within a few minutes. A self-test is ideal for people who think they are in a low-risk group but who still want to be sure before having sex again.
Don’t wait before taking action. If you turn out to have an STD, then it is better to have it treated immediately. Ask a medical professional what treatment you need, either in person or online. To prevent your partner from contracting your STD and possibly infecting other people, it is advisable to inform anyone you have had sex with of the infection.