Image: University of Warwick

Is Warwick doing enough for sexual health?

Over three-fifths of Warwick students have had unprotected sex, with an additional 46% never having been tested for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), according to a sexual health survey by the Boar, which compared the responses of over 170 Warwick students living in Leamington, campus and the surrounding areas.

The survey found that less than one-fifth of respondents had undergone STI screening in the last six months, while a further 9% had been tested in the last year and 6% had not been tested for over a year. Only 8% of respondents had been tested in the last month. These results include the one in ten who said they had not been tested because they were not sexually active.

However, only one third said that they had never had unprotected sex, with three in ten admitting to having unprotected intercourse more than once, and a further 13% regularly.

Of the three-fifths who reported having unprotected sex, 74% had not been tested since last having it.

The most common reasons for this were getting “carried away” (23%), not having ready access to protection and being intoxicated, with 20% each respectively. While a leading brand’s ‘Extra Safe’ offering comes at a £2.99 for a pack of three, free condoms are regularly distributed at Welfare stands, outside the Copper Rooms, and are also available during the day from the Welfare Office in the Students’ Union. Free condoms are also provided by the C-Card scheme, whereby students can pick up free contraception from pharmacies in Coventry. While this is available to students living on campus, it does not cater to those living in a Leamington postcode.

The number of students who have undergone STI screening

TESTING

Of the students who had not been tested, nearly a third said they had not done so because they did not think they had an STI; a further 14% never found the time and nearly 10% were afraid of being tested.

8% of respondents said they had not been tested because they were unable to find a clinic. While the campus Health Centre provides chlamydia screenings, it does not cover blood tests, which are run alongside other tests by monthly GUM clinics in the SU.

However, one student commented that: “More regular gum clinics are needed on campus and in Leamington. You should get tested regularly and one clinic a term isn’t good enough, as people may not be able to attend.”

Another added: “I like that the university has a GUM clinic every now and again but I never see the notice until it’s closed. More advanced notice would be good.”

Of the students who had been tested, 84% had never been diagnosed with an STI, while the most common diagnoses were chlamydia and HPV.

The Brunswick Hub in South Leamington also offers STI screenings, but by appointment only on Monday and Wednesday evenings and Friday afternoons. As well as providing the pill, it also administers the IUD and implant.

STIs

Of the students who had been tested, 84% had never been diagnosed with an STI, while the most common diagnoses were chlamydia and HPV.

One respondent added: “To be treated for current sexual health issues I have to travel to Coventry every week at awkward times in the morning. Not enough is being done to allow students all over Warwickshire the chance to be treated nearer to their homes.”

“There is also not enough empathy amongst healthcare professionals with regards to STIs as they generally quite dismissive to how embarrassing and uncomfortable they are, whilst also not appreciating the pressures of student life with regards to drinking alcohol, being stressed, and relationships.”

A third of respondents had taken some emergency contraception, which is freely available for under-25s from the Monarch pharmacy in Canley and Boots in Cannon Park.

Another commented on the campus Health Centre: “It’s difficult to get a doctor’s appointment and ringing up loads at 9am in the hope you can get through — this should not be the system.”

EMERGENCY PILL

A third of respondents had taken some emergency contraception, which is freely available for under-25s from the Monarch pharmacy in Canley and Boots in Cannon Park. Alternatively, Boots charges £28.25 for Levenelle and provides a generic version for slightly cheaper. Tesco and Superdrug now provide alternatives for £13.50.

However, a number of students expressed difficulties in accessing the morning-after pill: “When seeking emergency contraception, I asked for advice from the on campus Health Centre. I was surprised that not only they didn’t have any pills but her advice wasn’t good or correct.”

“She advised me to travel to the Coventry centre to reach a pharmacy. If I wasn’t aware that Boots up the road can provide the morning after pill, I would have had to go elsewhere or more than likely not have protected myself.”

Another added: “I tried to go on the pill in my first year as an undergraduate at Warwick in 2009. It was to stop painful periods (I have since been diagnosed with endometriosis), but the nurses in the Health Centre were more concerned with telling me I was probably already pregnant and that I could not control my supposed sexual urges. They were exceedingly judgmental.” The Health Centre has been contacted for comment.

Forms of contraception used

Responses to sexual health education were generally negative, with less than a quarter saying they thought they had received an adequate education at school and 15% that it was more focused on moral judgement.

Two-thirds of respondents were unaware that, as of 2015, nearly 20,000 people in the UK are believed to be living with HIV and not know it. However, only 13% did not know that STIs can be transmitted through oral sex.

Three-fifths said that they did not think the University provided sufficient education on sexual health and 49% added that there was not an adequate STI testing provision.

One student said: “The university provides “health care” and sexual health care should come under that without question. In reality, a large majority of the student body will be sexually active at some point during their time at uni, and it is unacceptable that people cannot access adequate healthcare.”

However, another commented: “It is not the university’s responsibility to look after your sexual health. I feel that we need to stop blaming the University for our problems in life.”

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