Schools should offer STD tests say public health leaders

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Public health leaders have stated that tests to screen children for sexually transmitted diseases should be offered throughout the country.

This came after parents expressed their anger over the introduction of these types of tests in Sussex. The Royal Society for Public Health said the introduction of the tests was a good method of raising sexual health awareness and should be expanded if it proves successful.

According to Public Health England (PHE) around one in 12 tests for Chlamydia are done in universities, colleges and schools, instead of in medical settings.

Parents from Brighton and Hove criticised the method whereby 15 and 16-year-olds are offered swabs within the classroom, which allows them to test themselves in the school toilets. Teachers stated that the plan is to indicate how painless and easy the tests are, so the students would not be afraid to use them in the future.

Parents have stated that they were unaware of the existence of these schemes at nine East Sussex schools and their teenagers had felt ‘humiliated’ after being requested to try the tests.

The head of the Royal Society for Public Health said she would be pleased if more schools introduced testing. However, parents should be contacted prior to the introduction of the schemes.

Shirley Cramer, the chief executive of the charity, said the practical demonstration to young people of what is involved in the Chlamydia test may aid in de-stigmatising and demystifying the procedure. This may help young people gain confidence in learning about other sexual health aspects.

She said the schemes should be combined with an overall education which would allow young people to gain a better understanding of the social and personal consequences of their sexual behaviour. She added that if the schemes succeed in increasing awareness and testing, they would welcome the expansion thereof.

Local councils will bear the responsibility of introducing these schemes to secondary schools.

Schools based in Wirral, Merseyside have started introducing Chlamydia tests in clinics which are managed by school nurses. Similar schemes are being offered in Redbridge in London.

These schemes were introduced to form part of the National Chlamydia Screening Programme, which focuses on reducing the rates of this infection, which can cause infertility.

Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections in the UK. In excess of 200000 people were tested positive for the infection during 2012, of which around two-thirds were under the age of 25.

The deputy chief executive officer at the charity Brook, Jules Hillier, said it was extremely important for young people to have access to information on testing and the treatment for sexually transmitted infections.

She said that young people have asked that education and health services be linked to allow them to overcome the misunderstanding and fear they experience. She added that if the schemes were set up in partnership with young people, and their right to confidentiality was respected, it could aid in removing some of the anxiety linked to the tests.

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