On Wednesday 13th October, the Edinburgh University Students’ Association’s Liberation Campaigns were offering free STI tests on campus, delivered by SX and Waverley Care. The tests were free and open to anyone, and will be carried out in a mobile testing centre that will offer both in-person and home testing kits.
SX is a charity that works to improve the mental, physical, and sexual well-being of gay and bisexual men and is a part of Waverley Care, another charity that tackles HIV and Hepatitis C and provides services that address and improve sexual health more broadly.
The testing centre was available for five hours in the afternoon and offered blood testing for HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis. There was also urine testing for chlamydia and gonorrhoea. Attendees may also choose to receive sexual health advice and referrals to Chalmers Sexual Health Centre.
Aisha Janki Akinola, the Vice President Welfare at Edinburgh University Students’ Association, spoke to The Student:
“For the past three years, the Students’ Association has been proud to support SX and the ROAM Outreach Team in delivering inclusive and accessible on-campus STI testing, making it quick and easy for students to check their status. In October, ROAM’s mobile testing van will be at Bristo Square, and students can book in for in-person testing or to collect an at-home testing kit by calling 07973669525.
“Whether you have concerns about your sexual health, or just want a regular check-up, we would encourage all students to make use of this service while it’s on campus.”
Data shows that, in Scotland, diagnoses of chlamydia have increased in men, and those of gonorrhoea in both men and women over the past decade. In 2019-2020, Edinburgh saw the fifth highest number of STI Google searches in the UK, as searches on the subject skyrocketed after the easing of lockdown restrictions. In Edinburgh, the single most searched STI was HPV (Human papillomavirus).
In 2019, the UK government responded to findings by the Health and Social Care Committee report on sexual health by committing to a dedicated national sexual health strategy, though this has reportedly been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. It was reported that the number of STIs in England fell by nearly a third in 2020, partly due to reduced testing and partly due to a shift in people’s sexual behaviour during the pandemic.
This data makes it all the more important to continue to provide sexual health advice and testing services as the UK emerges from its multiple lockdowns and young people return to campuses in large numbers.
Some students seem to feel that more needs to be done by way of promoting sexual health amongst young people, and that such free-of-charge testing is a step in the right direction.
Aayushi, an international student at the University of Edinburgh, commented:
“I think more needs to be done to inform people about sexual health and practicing safe sex, and students definitely need to know that, for example, there’s free contraception available at Potterrow. More awareness is always better.”
Image: Sexual Health by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images