Belfast Trust providing free STI testing at Queen's University Students Union

19/09/2019

Belfast Trust, in partnership with the Public Health Agency and Queen’s University Students’ Union is providing free sexual health tests for students at a special GUM clinic on the university campus.

The number of sexually transmitted infections (STI) continues to rise and the groups most at risk are young people under 25 years old and males in same sex relationships.

An STI can be passed from person to person through unprotected sexual intercourse or close sexual contact with another person.

Young people are less likely to access mainstream services in a clinical setting, like a community clinic or hospital, so the Public Health Agency has funded a clinic in Queen’s University Students’ Union to make these services more accessible. The service is run by medical staff who specialise in sexual health. It is hoped that taking the service to the students in a place where they may feel more comfortable will encourage them to ask for advice about any issues of concern.

The clinic is available for access every Monday 1pm to 4pm and is located on the first floor of the Students' Union.

Carol Emerson, a sexual health consultant with Belfast Health and Social Care Trust said:
“A weekly term-time walk-in clinic started in the Students Union in January 2018 and to date we have seen over 900 students. We work with Queen’s University and our Belfast Trust staff to oversee and monitor the service. Patients are assessed and offered full STI testing for Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, HIV, syphilis and hepatitis. Condoms are also available at the clinic, as well as emergency contraception.”

“I can’t over emphasise how important it is to have your sexual health checked if you feel something isn’t quite right. There may be longer term consequences or complications from an STI that has gone unchecked and untreated. It may also have an impact on mental health, self-esteem and your relationships” said the consultant.

‘Our message to students is if you feel that you have been at risk then come to the QUB clinic. It shouldn’t cause you embarrassment to talk about your sexual health with a professional, staff at the clinic will look after you and keep your information confidential.’ she said.

The Queen’s Students’ Union Welfare Officer Ciaran O’ Brien has welcomed the partnership between Queen’s Students’ Union and the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.  He said, “Coming to university is an exciting new experience and is a time to embrace new opportunities and enjoy new relationships.  Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and relationships. Often it's something that people feel they shouldn't talk about, but this can lead to sexual health being avoided or neglected.  Whilst at Queen’s, we want our students to take control of their own sexual health and access to the clinics ensures they are aware of the facts on sexual health as well as having access to assessments and testing”.   

The Public Health Agency has produced an information film which explains how a Genito-Urinary Medicine clinic works with patients, what they can expect at their first visit and what tests might be involved. The film can be found below.

Information on looking after your sexual health, symptoms of STIs, as well as information on STIs which may be symptomless and details of Northern Ireland GUM clinics can be found on the PHAs sexual health website www.sexualhealthni.info