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April 27, 2009 | by  | in Opinion |
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Sexual and Reproductive Health

Some of the most frequent consultations at the Student Health Service (SHS) involve issues related to sexual and reproductive health. This is not surprising, as two-thirds of sexually transmissible infections (STIs) occur in people under 25 years of age, and New Zealand has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the developed world.

The good news is that the SHS offers free or low cost sexual health consultations at our clinics on the Kelburn and Pipitea campuses. We are also able to provide contraceptive, advice including the emergency contraceptive pill, condoms, dams, pregnancy tests and cervical screening. Now how convenient is that?

Often before students make it to one of our clinics they have spent time online looking up information or talking with friends. Two New Zealand-based websites which you may like to visit are the ones maintained by Family Planning (FP) NZ and the Auckland Sexual Health Service (ASHS). The FP site has information regarding contraception and unplanned pregnancy, including free and downloadable pamphlets. www.familyplanning.org.nz/OurClinics/NeedHelpNow.aspx

The ASHS site is full of useful information about the prevention, signs and symptoms and the treatment of STIs. www.ashs.org.nz If you have had enough of searching the internet and listening to stories from others, and you are ready to talk to someone about having a check, then make an appointment at SHS to speak with a nurse or a doctor. We will be able to put you at ease about how simple and quick a sexual health check can be.

When to have a Sexual Health Check

Whenever you would like to have one. Typically people present when they are worried that they have been exposed to an STI. This is usually when they have had sex with someone new, or if their relationship has broken up, especially if their partner was having sex with other people. Symptoms which usually motivate people to make an appointment include new or unusual lumps, blisters, sores, rashes or irritation around the genital area, pain or bleeding during or after sex or between periods, lower abdominal pain, unusual discharge or odour from the vagina or penis. Pain or burning when you pass urine can be either a urinary tract infection or an STI. However, some STIs have no symptoms. For example, most people who have chlamydia, which is the most common treatable sexually transmissible infection acquired in New Zealand,do not know they have it. If chlamydia is left untreated it can potentially cause infertility in both men and women. Chlamydia can be successfully treated by taking one dose of an oral antibiotic.

Incubation Times

Incubation time refers to the time from when you may have been infected with a STI until the signs and symptoms develop and you can be tested for its presence. Incubation times vary from a few days to a few months. Therefore if you are seen at the SHS soon after having unprotected sex, you may be advised by the nurse or doctor to return for a check in three weeks. If you have any concerns regarding infections such as HIV, Syphilis or Hepatitis B or C, which have a longer incubation times, it is recommended to be tested three months after any potential exposure.

Emergency Contraception

If you require emergency contraception, the sooner we see you to discuss your options the better. The emergency contraceptive pill (ECP) is available for free at the SHS for students under twenty five years and at a low cost for others. The ECP can be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex, but the earlier it is given the more effective it is in preventing pregnancy. If you require the ECP and the Student Health Service is closed, you can buy it over the counter from some pharmacies. You will need to have a consultation with a pharmacist and it will cost approximately $35-$40. Alternatively, you can visit the After Hours Medical Centre on Adelaide Road. If you are under twenty five years of age and if you let the receptionist know that is why you need to be seen, it will be free.

What is involved when you have a Sexual Health Check?

Your privacy and dignity are of utmost importance to us. We know how daunting it can be to make that first appointment. You can bring a friend, and you can ask for a chaperone. Consultation with the nurse or doctor starts with history taking. Don’t worry you will not be asked to divulge names or locations! You will be asked such things as: Have you had an STI check before? Do you have any concerns about a particular STI? Do you have any symptoms? How long have you been in your current relationship/when did you last have sex? What type of sexual activity have you had? – this clinical information helps us to decide which swab tests to take and where to take them from.

Before you are examined the procedure will be explained, so there will be no surprises. Typically, the physical examination involves checking the genital area. For women swabs will be taken from the vagina and cervix, and a urine test maybe be requested. Self-taken vaginal swabs to check for chlamydia are an option for females in some circumstances. Men will require a chlamydia urine test and occasionally, after discussion with the nurse or doctor, a swab maybe taken. The swab is very small. To ensure the swab test is accurate it is recommended that the tests be taken at least two hours after you have last passed urine. The swab tests look for infections such as gonorrhoea and trichomoniasis, which can be treated with antibiotics. It takes about two or three working days to get the results of your tests. Any blood tests are recommended three months after unprotected exposure, due to the longer incubation time of most viral infections.

To make an appointment for a sexual health check, call 463 5308 Kelburn Campus or 463 7474 Pipitea Campus. During your visit we can also prepare you a prescription for up to 144 condoms, which will cost only $3 at the pharmacy! You can choose between fruit, chocolate or strawberry flavoured, coloured, ribbed and textured, extra strength, ultra thin and plain condoms. Wow, so much choice. We also have some free condoms available in the waiting rooms.

We have dams available at the SHS. They are also available at D.VICE on the corner of Willis and Dixon Streets. They sell vanilla, strawberry and cola flavoured ones for $2 each.

If your partner also requires a check but they are not a student at Victoria University, they could visit their own medical centre, a Family Planning Clinic (FP) or the Sexual Health Service on Adelaide Road, Newtown. The Sexual Health Service is a free service and it is located in the same building as the After Hours Medical Centre. They also have clinics in Lower Hutt and Porirua, their telephone number is 0800 188 881.

If you have any questions about any aspects of your health including sexual or reproductive health please make an appointment at the SHS. You can be confident that you will be provided with skilled and sensitive professional care from our doctors and nurses.

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