Let’s talk about STI screening?

I debated for a while as to whether I wanted to write about this subject. It’s quite a personal topic and while they’re becoming more common than we may like to admit, there’s still a large stigma attached to talking about Sexually Transmitted Infection’s, let alone admitting you have had one.

Step up, please!

Anyone?

But that’s why I felt I needed to write this post.

It’s not surprising most people don’t want to talk about STIs. It’s so personal and admitting you’ve ever had one can feel shameful. When it shouldn’t. But what’s concerning is the number of people who don’t get checked. Correct me if I’m wrong, but my experience is that women seem to be more conscientious than men when it comes to sexual health. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking this.

”Another problem, being straight, is the fact that a lot of the time men don’t seem to be as “woke” as women. I’ve always had to take responsibility for contraception – actively telling partners to use condoms, to go to STI clinics before we have sex, to come with me to get the morning-after pill.Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff – The Observer.

What’s interesting about the comment above, is the line referring to going to STI clinics before having sex. While we may berate some people in that they need to be told to go, the difference between Ireland and the UK, is that once you decide to, you have lots of options.

So, what are your options if you are a conscientious sexually active adult in Ireland? A lot of doctors and medical centres advertise sexual health screenings, but they come with a cost. A hefty one at that. Between €95 – €120. (€85 if you and your partner get tested together). Of course, to start off with, the line goes, if you use condoms and refrain from multiple sexual partners then you will avoid contracting an STI. I always wondered what was considered multiple. More than two a year? Five a year? Ten? Anyway, in reality, there are certain STIs that condoms simply don’t prevent you from catching. So as much as you should always practise safe sex, you aren’t hundred percent covered at all times.

Therefore, if you’re not in a relationship, abstention is clearly the best solution!

Joke.

Let’s not fear monger here. When I was growing up STIs were known as Sexually Transmitted Diseases. The down grade to an infection is promising, so we shouldn’t look on this as doomsday. They are easily dealt with. It’s just unfortunate that it’s such a prohibitively expensive process to get checked here in Ireland.

In my twenties, I didn’t have that kind of money to be throwing around, so myself and my girlfriends would suffer the indignity of hanging out in St. James’ hospital Guide clinic for a whole day. It was always a disaster. Hundreds of people queuing. Male doctors when you specifically requested a female one. Still it was a good service and one we made regular use of. The amount of men I knew back then who didn’t. Their lack of concern for their own sexual health was shocking. Actually the biggest fear seem to be about getting you pregnant, which of course was a concern considering our archaic laws.

I recently decided I wanted to go for a screening. No symptoms, just a healthy check up. As I wasn’t willing to fork out €95, it was off to James’ with me. (There are a few other free clinics but they’re either aimed at men or have really awkward times). Their open clinic is now reduced to a ticketed service, which they give out at 8am on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. The clinic itself doesn’t start till 9am on Mondays and then 1.30 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Admittedly I was late – finding parking and the clinic itself was no mean feat. Got there at 8.15 but I thought I might be okay. It’s Monday, it’s cold, it’s raining, there might not be a crowd. Oh how wrong was I. Firstly, I was told, it was emergencies only. What? Your website said it was an open clinic. Yes, but we only know on the day whether it’ll be emergency or not. Then I was told, you would have needed to be here at 7am to get a ticket anyway. How many people do you see? Some days it’s 50. Others it’s 20.

This is what we face here.

So to avail of what should be an all round free service, I’m expected to get up at 6am, be there for 7, although they don’t start for another two hours. Run the risk that they may decide it’s emergencies only. If they don’t, then hope I get a ticket and wait to be seen, which from previous experiences could take hours. Clearly this particular service is aimed students and the unemployed, which is fine. Great in fact, but I would think there are more that 60 people a week that would require it.

What I don’t understand is why better free services aren’t offered?

Why do we have to pay at all?

I can hear you laughing.

It’s a hoot, right?

Our health system is such a shambles there’s no way they could get themselves together to offer free sexual health screenings. But really they should. I know STI screening is not the most essential of all services, especially when you read about the hell nurses face on a daily basis, but it is important. While they may no longer be diseases, and can be treated, too many people neglect it, are afraid to talk about it and don’t get tested. And the reality is, if you don’t have symptoms (although several of them don’t present symptoms), why would you?

Why go when you can just ignore it?

It seems to be how our health care system ‘functions’ anyway.

Photo credit to Anna Sastre – unsplash.com

 

 

 

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