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September 17, 2018 | by  | in News | [ssba]

STIs: Don’t Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

A Massey University study led by Dr Hayley Denison has revealed that young people in New Zealand under the age of 25 are slow to seek healthcare and treatment for STIs.
After surveying nearly 250 clients at a sexual health clinic, the results showed that 40 percent of people surveyed weren’t seeking care for about a week or more after getting their results, with one third continuing to have sex despite showing symptoms. In New Zealand, those between the ages of 15 and 24 are those most affected by STIs, representing 67 percent and 57 percent of chlamydia and gonorrhoea cases respectively. In Wellington and Auckland, there has also been a spike in cases of syphilis.
However, Victoria University of Wellington’s on-campus sexual health GP, Dr Cathy Stephenson, believes that these strong behavioural patterns don’t apply to VUW Student Health. “…there are still students who don’t come in for checks, except when they develop symptoms that concern them, but huge numbers do come in regularly, just to ‘get tested’ even when they are symptom free.”
Mauri Ora aims to remove barriers that deter young people from getting tested. Registered patients get free STI check-ups, which nurses can conduct. Most STI testing (given you don’t ave symptoms) is done via self-swab or urine test, and doesn’t require a doctor or nurse to examine you.

Nonetheless, Hayley Samuel from the Sexually Transmitted Infections Education Foundation states that young Kiwis’ negligence surrounding STI checks can be attributed to a lack of education, especially in terms of the common misunderstanding that you need symptoms to have an STI.
Young people are at highest risk, as they tend to “have a higher number of sexual partners, don’t always use condoms, but also because the genital tissues of young women are more susceptible to actually contracting an infection when exposed to one, compared to older women,” Dr Stephenson said.

Alongside the risk of passing an STI onto a sexual partner, STIs can also lead to pelvic infections and scarring around the tubes and ovaries for those possessing vaginas, which in some cases risk infertility. Infertility from STIs is also possible for those with penises , but is not as well scientifically validated.
Samuel points out that the stereotype around the “type of people” who get STIs creates a negative stigma. “It’s not about being clean, dirty, good, or bad – it’s about being normal and sexually active. Being sexually active inevitably means sharing bugs… sometimes unavoidably.”
VUWSA’s “Sex in the Hub” initiative last week was a step forward to open the discussion on such topics. VUWSA Wellbeing and Sustainability Officer Ella Hughes stated, that by creating an open space that provides education, activities, and free STI testing, people may “rethink why as a society we are so secretive and ashamed of testing, when it’s all about our own safety and health and letting our partners make informed choices”.
“STIs affect people of all ages, backgrounds and from all walks of life… if you are sexually active, having regular health checks is important,” said Samuel.


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