Sexual health and contraception still matter in a pandemic, and here’s how to access them
We’re all very familiar with the country’s ‘stay at home’ mantra – in some cases, perhaps a little too much. With doctors’ surgeries and healthcare services minimising what they’re offering, many of us have been left unsure about when, where, and how to access sexual health support.
Sexual and reproductive health is as important as any other aspect of health, and sexual health services and support are still running at all times during the pandemic.
An unchecked STI or a lack of adequate contraception can cause greater complications down the line, which is why it is really important to get checked as soon as possible. GP services are still available during lockdowns.
Here’s what to do…
Find your nearest sexual health clinic
The first step to accessing sexual health support is to know where to find it. Knowing where your closest sexual health clinic makes it much simpler and faster when it comes to booking an appointment. To find out where your closest clinic is, visit the NHS sexual health clinic finder here.
STIs can be dangerous if left untreated, leading to discomfort, sores and, in severe cases, infertility. However, not all STIs display symptoms, so if you’ve recently had unprotected sex with someone new, get yourself checked out.
Following on from the point above, you can contact your nearest sexual health clinic or NHS service to pick up an STI test for free. However, if you are self-isolating and are unable to access these kits in person, you may be able to get this delivered to your door, free of charge.
Even in lockdown, and throughout the pandemic, you can still access contraception from your nearest sexual health clinic or GP. If you’ve noticed that you’re down to your last contraceptive pill packet, or need to replace your implant, simply contact your nearest sexual health clinic or GP who will advise you on next steps.
There’s extra support available if you’re self-isolating. Inform the team at the sexual health clinic, who will arrange to have any contraceptive pills delivered, or will schedule an appointment immediately after the end of your self-isolation period to update any implants or IUDs.
And it’s always possible to access emergency contraception. Contact your sexual health clinic as soon as possible to maximise the efficacy of the morning after pill. Alternatively, if you are 18+, you can buy the morning after pill from your local pharmacy, Boots or Superdrug.
Get PEP or PrEP
PEP, or post-exposure prophylaxis, is an anti-HIV medication, prescribed to those who have been exposed to the virus, for instance by having unprotected sex with someone who is HIV positive. If you need PEP, contact your sexual health clinic or GUM immediately. The drug is most effective if you take it within 24 hours of being exposed to HIV.
You may also be able to get PrEP. Taking PrEP before being exposed to HIV means there’s enough drug inside you to block HIV if it gets into your body.
PrEP is a drug taken by HIV-negative people before and after sex that reduces the risk of getting HIV. In England it is available as part of a trial. It is also available in Scotland and Wales. Read more here.
If you are still unsure on how to access sexual health support during the coronavirus pandemic, contact your local GP.
Discover Fumble’s pandemic support series
The pandemic has had a huge impact on all of our lives, and we’ve all struggled to understand and digest the changes that continue to happen all around us.
Last reviewed 25 January 2021 | Image Credit: Edward Jenner via Pexels