25% of young men attending a new community sexual health clinic, run by Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in the heart of Brixton, have tested positive for a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
The figures, which cover the six months from January to June 2004, show why improving access to sexual health services for young men is so important.
The statistics, which are released as Sexual Health Week is launched nationally today (August 2), are particularly relevant as South East London has some of the UK’s highest rates of sexually transmitted infections and teenage pregnancies.
The 374 Clinic opened its doors in the ethnically diverse area of Brixton in January this year to provide men under 25 with a free drop-in sexual health clinic where they can see male healthcare professionals, be screened for a range of sexually transmitted infections and pick up free condoms.
The clinic runs every Tuesday afternoon and aims to be as convenient for young men as possible by being right in the centre of the community at the Brixton Brook centre and by operating an open door policy.
One patient said: “It is very good that there is a clinic in Brixton so local people don’t have to travel so far. The staff are friendly and top marks for the service.”
The strategy is already proving successful as approximately 120 men have now attended the clinic and almost all have taken the opportunity to be tested for STIs, many of whom had no symptoms. Screening is a vital part of controlling STIs as detecting that a young man has an infection allows him and his partner to get treatment. In some cases women don’t have symptoms of their STIs and only discover they are carrying one when a male partner develops symptoms.
Targeting young men under 25 is also important to help reduce infection rates, as recent Health Protection Agency figures show that men aged between 20 and 24 have the highest rates of infection for sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia and genital warts.
David Lewis, the Consultant in Genitourinary Medicine who set the clinic up, said: “The 374 Clinic for men is actually run by male staff to help make sure anyone dropping in is as relaxed as possible. It’s vital for young men to be more aware of their sexual health, and screening for sexually transmitted infections is an important part of that.
“We have tried to make it as easy as possible by bringing the clinic to Brixton and operating it on a drop in basis. Both these things are important if we are to reduce the rate of sexually transmitted infection in the area.”
Testing is also made more efficient at the clinic thanks to a partnership with Brook who have developed the trust and respect of young people over many years through delivery of high quality young people’s sexual health and contraceptive services. The 374 Clinic is the only community clinic in South East London to have a laboratory with microscopy facilities on the premises. This means that men with symptoms of gonorrhoea can be tested and diagnosed on the same day.