The sexual health of young adults is a subject the UK government continues to struggle with. The number of STI/ STD testing carried out in 2017 remained around the same as previous years. This suggests that sexually active adults are still undergoing tests, with no clear drop or rise in demand. Yet, there has been a rise in some diseases, such as Chlamydia. This has led to increased efforts on education and awareness, to some degree.
But, there are still concerns about STI testing services. Users want the best possible tests and kits with fast results, simple methods and confidentiality. They also need those options to be affordable and accessible. Many stick to NHS services, but there are alternatives out there.
Choosing The Right Form of STD Testing Kits and Services
This guide aims to provide helpful information on some of the STI screening options in the UK. This means taking a look at some of the tests available to UK citizens, as well as the different options in private and NHS healthcare. The guide comprises of three key sections:
- STI testing on the NHS
- At-home STD testing kits
- Consultations at private clinics
Many young adults in the UK will consider NHS GUM clinics first. But, it is important to know that there are other options out there. GUM clinics don’t suit everyone, so these kits and private options may be preferable. The aim here is to provide a more comprehensive look at these three main options for a more informed choice.
STI Testing On The NHS
The National Health Service carries out screening via GUM centres across the country. Users have to the choice to make an appointment or drop in as needed. The NHS website should offer information on your nearest centre. This also means details on procedures, different STD testing kits and contact information. Users have the assurance that trained NHS professionals are able to offer 4 separate tests as required. Those tests are:
These are four of the most common STDs in the UK right now. Testing, via urine, blood and swab samples, helps specialists to identify signs of either infection. The tests themselves aren’t all that sophisticated. Much of the funding for sexual health in the UK goes towards education and prevention methods, such as a new initiative on the HPV vaccine for men. This means that there are pros and cons to NHS screening.
What to expect with NHS screening options: the pros and cons.
It is important to look at this NHS option rationally. The current crisis in the system and lack of funding means that it is second nature to rally behind the organisation. Yet, the cracks in the system have created some disadvantages for patients. Cuts to services, long waiting times and rushed appointments have led to a diminished quality of care across the board.
Limits to services mean more than just the clinics available. There are cases where a treatment simply isn’t available on the NHS. A key example of this is the test for herpes. Herpes testing is only offered if there is an obvious sore around the anus or genitals. This means that those with cold sores on their mouths, another symptom of the virus, can’t receive treatment. It is also important to note that GUM visitors have to fill out a form and answer a lot of questions on their sexual history. This can be uncomfortable for those worried about confidentiality.
At-Home STD Testing Kits
Recent developments in STD testing kits are clearer in this commercial side than in the NHS. While GUM clinics continue to offer similar testing procedures, other companies are stepping in to make things easier. A big issue with the GUM approach is waiting in a busy waiting room. Home-based testing eliminates this problem and should engage with young people too scared to go to a clinic. This is where the kits and systems have advanced the most.
There is still a waiting time for results, but the system is efficient. Kits can vary depending on the company and the concern of the consumer. It is possible to get a specialist kit or one that is a 4-in-1 package to cover all the screening options. Like the NHS procedure, this means Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, Syphilis and HIV.
Leading Companies and Initiatives supplying these STD Testing Kits include the following:
Lloyds pharmacy is a reliable name and respected chemist that many women will be happy to use. There are three different tests available from the company. It is possible to order online to remain discrete, or to head in-store. There is also a choice of test with different screening options. Some are minimal, but there is also one with the same four tests as offered on the NHS.
Source: Lloydspharmacy Online Doctor
The benefit here is discretion. Users can receive a recommended treatment option through the post after a positive diagnosis. The downside is the cost. It is currently £59.95 for the full test and many women with low incomes will struggle to budget for this.
This option ticks a lot of the right boxes. SH:24 is a free test with a mail order approach. There are also no details used on sample labels so it is completely confidential. This free approach is the most appealing to those worried about costs that want a quick solution. There is also text support for alerts on dispatches and when samples arrive at the lab. This keeps users informed and not as in the dark as they might be with this at-home process. It is also important to note that this service runs in partnership with NHS trusts.
The downside is accessibility, as there are currently only 15 regions in operation. These regions mainly lie around central England, London and the Midlands. Therefore, this free option is not available for those in the far north or south west of the country. The added problem here is that some of these areas are poorer, with low social mobility and high risks of STI transmission.
There are similar pros and cons to this testing kit too. The Freetest site provides a fee chlamydia and/or HIV test as a means of combatting the rise of infections. There is a clear focus on one problem, rather than the wider reach of some NHS kits. Still, the kit itself is like that used in GUM clinics. The issue here is once again accessibility in participating areas only. For example, there is 213 stockist in Wiltshire but just 1 in Cornwall.
What To Expect With At-Home STD Testing Kits: the Pros and Cons
The immediate benefit here is the chance for the user a user-friendly kit in the comfort of your own home. The best companies package up all the right swabs, containers and equipment for a reliable sample. All you need to do from there is seal it up and send it off. These at-home tests are convenient and completely confidential. No-one needs to know about it but you and the technicians handling the results.
There is also the fact that many of these kits are free, which should encourage greater use. The downside is a lack of professional support during the testing procedures. There is no-one to talk to about safe sex and infection risks. Many companies will have online support, but it isn’t the same. Then there is the need for a clinic visit if there is a positive result.
STI Testing and Consultations at Private Clinics
The final choice is to go private. Private is still something of a dirty word to some people. There is that idea of a clear divide between rich and poor – those that use free, basic services and those that can afford to pay for something else. Private healthcare isn’t all that black and white. There are plenty of clinics that can provide STI testing and other screening options for whoever wants to pay for them. Clients can make an appointment, under a false name if they desire, and receive a high-quality service. Some clinics can go further with screening measures that don’t necessarily fall within NHS guidelines.
Finding The Right Clinic For Your Needs
One option here is to look into the services of a nationwide organisation. Yor Sexual Health is one such organisation. Here individuals can choose to order a test or book an appointment at a local centre. These clinics promise 100% confidentiality, rapid results, and a great quality of care. One of the more appealing aspects of this system is the vast range of testing services.
There are some that focus purely on one test, others that replicate the NHS option and others that go much further. The most comprehensive tests for 11 different infections, with a 4 day turnaround time. The downside here is the £300 cost. The “profile 7” test, which is the one closest to the NHS option, costs £150.
The alternative option here is to search online for clinics in your local area. This is a great way to find a solution with a respected clinician close to home. These private options won’t be cheap but could offer the peace of mind that GUM clinics can’t. These clinics may also have Google or Yelp reviews.
What to Expect with Consultations at Private Clinics: The Pros And Cons
One disadvantage to the GUM approach is that users go in, take the tests, and wait up to a couple of weeks for results. If everything is negative, they won’t hear anything at all. For some, this suggests a lack of support where doctors forget patients after an appointment. On-site results and consultations provide information and support whatever the outcome. This also means that private clinics have more time for their clients.
There are no long waits in waiting rooms or rushed appointments. Some services are also more in tune with user needs in regard to confidentiality. They don’t ask all those questions about sexual history and choices. They simply offer the tests and provide answers. This is encouraging for LGBT and disabled users that can feel uncomfortable with the questions of NHS staff.
The downside here is that you may have to travel further and spend more money for the privilege of this system. There are fees for the tests, the costs of which may vary depending on the provider. This upfront cost can be an issue for those trying to be secretive. It may also put some users off, which is a problem for those on lower incomes that need support.
NHS GUM Clinic, Private Office or At-home STI kit?
So, which is the best approach? There are some clear pros and cons to both options here.
The NHS system is the one we feel that we should use. Therefore, we automatically turn to the GUM clinic first. Yet, this universal approach does have its limits on the services offered. There are also concerns over confidentiality and the conveyor belt system of stretched services.
Private, dedicated clinics do come at a price, and maybe a little further away. Yet, there is arguably a better service here for those that are willing to make those compromises. Many are happy to have paid the fee for the chance to enjoy instant results and a helpful one-on-one session. At-home STD testing kits eliminate the issue of confidentiality, but there is no support on-hand and there is still that wait for the results.
There is no right or wrong answer here. The most important thing is that you get checked by a professional if you have any concerns about your sexual health. Once you decide upon an approach, take advantage of that situation.
Talk to the staff about testing options, spend the time discussing results and implications and make the most of their resources. The best centres will give visitors the time, care and services they need. If you have a good experience – as good as these screenings can be – you know that you have a reliable service to turn to in the future. If you become dissatisfied with the system, for whatever reason, look at a different option.