A study into the standards of sexual health services at UK universities has found that 11% of students do not know where to get screened for STIs – with over a quarter of Belfast students unaware of this information. Zava, the online doctor service, recently surveyed students across 50 heavily populated universities, in order to discover which institutions are providing sufficient (or insufficient) services for their students.
The study’s findings point to a lack of easily accessible information as primary cause. Out of the 50 universities analysed, 21 failed to provide any detailed information on STI’s or support pages on their websites. In addition, 87% of students feel their university could do more to promote sexual health by providing free condoms and improving accessibility to nurses.
The study found that 33 universities do not open their clinics on the weekends, with just 12 offering opening hours in the evening. With students juggling lectures and seminars throughout the week, the window of opportunity to see a healthcare professional is significantly limited.
Universities can help students to make better choices
New data from Public Health England’s recent report shows that the average student engages in unprotected sex 12 times during their time at university, and that 359 young people (aged 15 – 24) were diagnosed with chlamydia every year in 2018 – meaning over 130,000 diagnoses in a year.
With cases of STIs soaring, universities have been called to step up and demystify sexual health screenings. Through readily available information and support, the percentage of students that are too embarrassed to get tested (47%) or be seen by their peers (33%) could decrease.
However, Dr Kathryn Basford – GP at Zava – believes students also have to take responsibility for their own sexual health: “While universities should look to educate and provide access to sexual health services for their students, students also need to take precautions of their own.”
Universities may want to consider investing in free condoms for students, and prioritise them being visible and plentiful in order to encourage students to take care of their sexual health.