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Students Struggle to Access Sexual Healthcare

The Scottish Government, advised by the Family Planning Association (FPA), has published compulsory guidance for teaching Relationship and Sex Education in state schools. According to the PDA, young people who are taught about sexual health and safety are less likely to experience an STI or report non-consensual sex.

Inaccessible sexual health testing has been an ongoing issue at the University of St Andrews. The St Andrews Community Hospital, a mile and a half from the centre of town, offers sexual health services by appointment, including contraception, emergency contraception, abortion referrals, STI and HIV testing. For some students, negative experiences with the hospital combined with the distance has discouraged sexual health testing.

First years are required by the University to complete a course on ‘consent and bystander intervention’ in order to fully matriculate. The University also has different educational online resources with regards to sexual health. Despite this, there is no exclusively sexual health clinic in the centre of St Andrews.

A second-year student recounted her experience of seeking out testing after being sexually assaulted. She was unable to receive testing from the Community Hospital, and sought testing through a mail-in testing service, but never received her results. The inaccessibility combined with the mail-in testing defeated the purpose of a sexual health clinic, she thinks.

She told The Saint, “It would have been nice to be able to immediately go into a clinic and explain what happened to me.” She added, “That probably could have helped mentally, as well as getting tested, if I had access to NHS therapy resources.”

Unfortunately for this student, the process was not only unnecessarily challenging, but unsuccessful. She explained how, although she’s aware that the University has resources for students who have trauma like hers, or simply want to get tested, she does not think it is made accessible or publicised enough. She explained that, after the incident, she reached out to the University for help, without realising that her experience would not remain confidential.

As a result of inconvenient or inaccessible testing, she feels that sexual health is not talked about enough among her peers. She said, “There isn’t really a culture of STI testing here,” she thinks. The hassle of the experience discouraged her and has probably discouraged other students as well. “I think having a very walk-in clinic in town is very important,” she said, “It’s a small pool of students, and STIs get passed around.”

Illustration: Marios Diarkourtis

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