I sure hope not.
But it’s a few weeks shy of freshers and you’ve just got a text. Someone you slept with has an STD.
Time to see a doctor.
If you don’t fancy waiting weeks for a GP appointment, then according to the University’s website, two clinics run every Friday between the hours of 9 am – 12:30 pm (for the general public) and 1:30 – 5:00 pm (for students during term time). Both are located at the St Andrews Community Hospital and both are appointment only. Now in a university town nearing ten thousand students, where outbreaks of STIs aren’t unheard of, these services are clearly inadequate. Their only appointment being one that could leave you waiting at least a week – if not more – to get seen maybe enough to stop you going altogether.
But you decide the wait is worth it. You care about your health and you’ve booked that appointment. Well done!
After a long week, you stride into the hospital, down a few corridors with your head held high, and are met with a waiting room. Sat in the rectangular array of chairs, designed by an apparent sadist who wants you to look in the eye of every other person seated, you see your one-night stand. They see you. The look passed is brief and shame-filled. After spending too long with your gaze fixed on floor (somehow you convince yourself if you can’t see them, they can’t see you), you’re called into a room. A much less flustered individual hands over a swab and you hurry off to the loo. It takes an advanced yoga pose to really get a good sample, and you do your best not to look at your one-night stand as you return to reception. Five minutes later, you’re quick walking it out the hospital, face hot. You realise that if there were ever a good campaign for abstinence, this fiasco is it.
Three weeks later, and after a few hot nights, you get the results back.
Now it’s another wait for treatment, and an awkward phone call to those hot nights to explain that hey need to get checked. Will they all want to jump through the same hoops? I suspect not.
This story is not uncommon. With all the social barriers to talking about and dealing with sexual health, it would be nice if the services provided wouldn’t add any more. Even though the NHS is stretched, there’s no excuse for this level of low-quality care for such a large population. One-day-a-week-appointment-only-services are not good enough, and neither are long waiting times. They can and should do better.
However, in spite of these hurdles, it’s important you take care of your health. Being a prude or down-right squeamish doesn’t exempt you from looking after your health and knowing a thing or two about these problems. Take, for example, chlamydia. This very common and often symptomless STI, if left untreated, can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and can even trigger reactive arthritis. Or how about syphilis? Archaic maybe, but this disease is alive and well in St Andrews, with incredibly serious consequences if left untreated. If you don’t fancy a stroke, meningitis, or dementia, it’s best to deal with it ASAP.
The list of problems goes on and the message is clear: better services need to be provided and you need to look after your health.
It’s best to practice safe sex, i.e.with a condom, especially with new partners, and if you think you have something, get tested. Don’t sleep with anyone else in the meantime. Note that there may be a lag between getting with someone who is infect-ed and contracting a disease in a way which can be picked up by tests, so keep that in mind whilst deciding when to get checked. If you think you’re fine, get checked anyway, at least every few months and every time you switch up partners to be sure that you won’t suffer long-term consequences if you do happen to pick something up.
Treat these problems like you would any other medical issue. An STI is not necessarily bad. Not knowing you have one is.
For more information about these issues and services available, visit the NHS and University website.