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STI awareness must improve

As part of Sexual Health Week, Spectrum is driving awareness surrounding two lesser-known STIs, gonorrhoea and syphilis, especially because they can be hard to identify. Roughly 1 in 10 men and half of women infected with gonorrhoea won’t experience any obvious symptoms, whilst symptoms of syphilis can be very mild and change over time.

Belinda Loftus, Spectrum’s Head of Sexual Health Services said, “Spectrum is encouraging people to get tested for STIs more frequently. Even if someone thinks they are fine, there is no harm in getting tested. It can be hard to spot whether you have an STI because symptoms of the infection might develop after months or years and in some cases they are so mild that they go unnoticed.”

According to a report published by Public Health England, most diagnoses of chlamydia, gonorrhoea and genital warts in 2015 were in people aged 15 to 24 years. The report also states that diagnosis of syphilis have increased 20%, whereas there has been an 11% rise in gonorrhoea diagnosis during the last year. Both of these infections are bacterial and can be passed on through oral, vaginal or anal sex. Most infections can be prevented by using condoms and getting tested is the only way to confirm if you have contracted an STI.

In the early stages syphilis can cause a painless, but highly infectious, sore on an infected person’s genitals or around the mouth and is treated effectively by antibiotic injections or tablets. The length of treatment depends on the stage of infection.

Many people who have gonorrhoea have no symptoms, but some women experience health problems from gonorrhoea including reduced fertility or increased risk of ectopic pregnancy. Gonorrhoea is usually treated with a short course of antibiotics.

Sexual Health Week 2016

Spectrum’s sexual health teams have been on the move throughout September, promoting Sexual Health Awareness Week at sixth-form colleges across Wakefield and Barnsley.

This year’s Sexual Health Week campaign was organised by the sex education charity Family Planning Association (FPA), emphasising a “back to basics” approach to STI awareness and encouraging providers to drive education on STI symptoms and testing.

Sexual Health Awareness Week encourages open discussion about sexual health issues among young people, including access to a range of different contraception methods and information about safe sex. This year’s campaign also coincided with Freshers Week in Wakefield and Barnsley, where students can find information about local healthcare support services.

Wakefield Sexual Health teams made a trip over to Wakefield College on 12 September to promote Trinity Walk Clinic, handing out leaflets encouraging patients to be tested for STI’s. Spectrum also spread the message on social media, shedding light on lesser known infections such as syphilis and gonorrhoea which can cause long-term damage if left undetected.

Spectrum Outreach teams based at Gateway Clinic paid a visit to Barnsley College on 14 September – targeting the largest education centre in the district. Thankyou everyone!