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30% more women under the age of 24 have tested positive for sexually transmitted infections in Ireland in the last two years compared to their male counterpart, emphasising the importance of both sexes getting tested.
The statistics from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre have revealed that 5,000 young women have tested positive in comparison to 3,500 men, especially for two of the most recognisable STIs; gonorrhoea and herpes. The survey also included chlamydia, syphilis and HIV.
These figures look fairly damning towards the females, however the medical director of the Dublin Well Woman Centre has suggested that women are more likely to get tested than men resulting in a possible unfair reflection. Whilst Dr Sheila McQuade has made a vague statement about men not going "to the doctors for very much", she has also voiced some valid points on the level of accessibility of STI clinics for men in the UK. Her thoughts stem from experience with many female patients enquiring for their male partners and the sheer volume of female patients filing through the doors. This leads to the question - Do men find it difficult to get tested? Is this an aspect of pride and embarrassment OR do men require better-equipped and more accessible STI facilities in the UK?
Dr McQuade didn't have concrete proof that sexual health clinics are more accessible to women than men, you do have to admit – females are often provided with a more calming and user-friendly atmosphere when it comes to getting tested, and health in general.
Whilst women have a more positive and frequent experience within the health services (many forms of sexual health protection for women requires a doctors appointment, such as the injection), men can grab everything they need over the counter –put simply, condoms. Women can develop a trusting and open relationship with their GP, whether they are male and female, whilst communication regarding sexual health is non-existent for the men. Team this with the fact that men seldom show any symptoms to a number of the most common and highly infectious STIs, and you have yourself a significant amount of the male population sheltered away from the effects of STIs. For example, the majority of men that have contracted herpes are simply carriers whereas most women can show a host of unpleasant symptoms. This could result in services focused to catering for the influx of women.
Whilst the convenience and equality of the UK's sexual health clinics could possibly be reviewed to develop a positive judgement-free area for men, there is also the theory that stigma and nervousness surrounding typically painless procedures is putting men off. Are STI clinics repelling men from getting sorted? Whilst procedures such as prostate testing are fairly invasive, STI testing generally isn't. However if the majority of men tend to steer clear of the GPs office and have less experience in talking about sexual health issues, this could result in an even wider spread of infections for both sexes. Perhaps those nerves are lingering when gents decide whether to head to the local GUM clinic or not…
The possible lack of information and stigma surrounding men's health are surely just two factors, however there is also the severity of symptoms and general accessibility play a vital part. The first port of call should be your local GP or GUM clinic for hands-on advice and a thorough analysis if you're experiencing any symptoms. It is imperative that you get the right antibiotics, however if you happen to have vetoed the doctor and anything related, you can order treatment online after an online consultation by healthcare professionals. If you have had unprotected sex recently, it does not take long to give yourself the all clear – peace of mind and a clear bit of health too. It's a no brainer.