Free STI testing for students
Even when you are cautious and take precautions, there is a chance you might get an STI or STD. Taking care of your sexual health is easy and sometimes free, so we have created a list of resources for STI testing and sexual health information you can easily access.
It’s normal to see an increase in your sexual activity when you go to university, especially at the start, during Freshers or your first year. It is very important that you take precautions and keep yourself safe, as well as get tested regularly if you’re having sex regularly. There are many resources available to you, including services that are free, easily accessible and/or discreet home services.
STDs and STIs: What to do and how to get tested?
When it comes to STDs and STIs, it is recommended to get tested after you’ve had any kind of unprotected sex (vaginal, anal, or oral). You may not realize you’ve got an STI, as symptoms may not always show. However, they can be uncomfortable, painful, or even cause long-term damage, if left untreated. If you’re unaware you have an STI or STD, you can also pass them on to your sexual partners without knowing.
It is important you test yourself, even if you do not have symptoms, as most STIs are easily treated. Sexual Health London, or SHL, is a free and accessible e-service that provides STI testing, as well as regular and emergency contraception. It is a service available to everyone aged 16 and over and who reside in most Boroughs of London.
But how does it work?
The process is simple, and you can order your kit or emergency contraception in less than 10 minutes:
- Create an account on the SHL website (you will have to give out personal details such as name, dob, etc.).
- Start a new consultation – you will be asked a few questions about your sexual activity. This is so you can be offered the right and appropriate service/tests for you.
- Once you have answered all the questions, you will be offered a test kit which you can send to your house or an alternate address for free. The packaging is discreet, so no one will know what is inside, and SHL offers free posting back to them.
- That’s it! Once you order your free kit, they will assess it and approve it. Your kit should be with you within 2 days, and you will have all instructions in it, as well as explanatory videos on how to do the self-sampling on the SHL website.
SHL offers different types of self-sampling, such as urine or a vaginal swab along with a finger-prick blood sample. You may also be offered additional swabs to test for oral and rectal infections, if you have responded you are at risk of these.
Sexual Health London
Besides offering free testing and contraception services, SHL offers detailed information on different topics regarding sexual health. In their website you can find different information on subjects such as: different types of STIs, different types of contraception and sexual health support – this section offers advice and information on topics like PEP and PrEP, sexual assault, alcohol and drugs and their influence on sexual activity, information for young people, and domestic violence.
Other ways to get tested
While testing at home is a good way to make sure more common STIs are caught early and treated in an easily accessible way, it is also recommended that you do more comprehensive testing, especially if you have symptoms of an STI.
Many GPs offer STI testing, but not all. You can contact your local GP and ask if they offer this service.
If your GP does not offer this service, you will be directed to a sexual health clinic – or GUM clinic. These clinics are just like your GP, but they specialize in sexual health. They offer free STIs tests and will accompany you during the whole process. Everything you tell them is kept confidential and you don’t even have to give your actual name if you don’t have to. They will also not tell your GP about your visit without your permission. GUM clinics are a great resource, as it is their job to test for these infections, so it will be a safe space for you to be able to get testing, regardless of your gender, age, and whether you have or don’t have symptoms. You can easily find a GUM clinic near you and make an appointment or just drop-in.
You can also use the CheckYourself services to find clinics around your Hall and order free tests to do at home.
Keeping yourself protected
Keeping yourself safe and protected while engaging in sexual activities is very important. Contraception is important, and there are plenty of experts and services across London that specialize in this. You can get information as well on what kind of contraception best suits you through the NHS. Just remember that, whether it’s a GP or a sexual health clinic, these places keep your information confidential and are used to help people, so you do not need to be afraid or apprehensive when asking for help.
UAL Student Services also provide a professional, confidential, and free service to all UAL students. If you would like to speak to a member of Student Services staff about any of the topics mentioned in this article, you can email them at email@example.com or check their website for information on every service offered to UAL students.
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