June 21, 2024

7 in 10 in Wales Have Never Had a Sexual Health Check

  • Doctors warn of rises in STIs following a summer free from COVID-19 restrictions
  • 23% don’t ask about a partner’s sexual health before engaging in sexual activity with them
  • 40% would be embarrassed to speak to a medical professional about a STI symptom
  • Bupa Health Clinics launch in-clinic sexual health checks

Doctors warn of a spike in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) following a summer free from COVID-19 restrictions, as 7 in 10 (70%) of those in Wales reveal they’ve never been for a sexual health check before, according to new research by Bupa Health Clinics1, which has just launched its in-clinic sexual health checks.

Factors including not knowing what the test consists of, making them feel like they’ve slept around, and being embarrassed about the look of my genitals (all 13%) were all reasons why people have put off getting a sexual check. People were also embarrassed to get undressed in front of and speak to a doctor (both 12%).

Despite this, 43% don’t think protection is a priority when it comes to having sex and 23% don’t ask about a new partner’s sexual health before engaging in sexual activity with them. In fact, over a quarter (26%) of Welsh people said they would only get an STI check if someone told them to.

Almost a third (30%) said they’d be embarrassed if a partner asked them to have a sexual health check before they had sex and 39% would be embarrassed to speak to a medical professional about symptoms.

For those who had been for a sexual health check before, almost half (48%) hadn’t had a check for two or more years. Almost five in ten (43%) got checked when they had a new partner or when they showed symptoms.

Dr Naveen Puri, Associate Clinical Director at Bupa Health Clinics, said: “This summer has certainly been fun for Brits as they filled their diaries with social events. And while it’s great to see people getting out and enjoying themselves again, we’re expecting to see a surge in sexually transmitted infections.

“It’s really important that people get checked for STIs, especially when having unprotected sex with a new partner. For example, Chlamydia sometimes has no symptoms at all, so you may not know that you have it or that you’ve passed it onto a partner. It can cause pain and infection in the testicles or reduce fertility, which for some women could mean they may struggle to have children in the future. This is why sexual health needs to become a priority for people, because if left untreated, infections could have more serious consequences.

“Our research shows that many people are embarrassed to talk to partners and healthcare professionals about their sexual health. It’s vital that we start and have these open conversations to protect ourselves from STIs.”

Dr Puri adds: “We live in a society where we celebrate being open about who we are and what we like, yet when it comes to STI checks, there still seems to be a taboo with many associating it with promiscuity or having multiple sexual partners. However, the reality is that you can catch an STI from anyone at any time if you’re having unprotected sex of any kind.

“There is no need to feel embarrassed or ashamed about attending for STI screening; taking control of our sexual health and getting checked should be just as essential as seeing a doctor for any other health concerns you may have. It’s nothing to worry about and often consists of a blood test, a urine sample or swabs from where you have the infection. If you have no symptoms and are testing to reassure yourself, you can do the relevant swabs on your own.

“So, whether you’re thinking of starting dating again, entering a new relationship or wanting to keep on top of your sexual health, make the time to get checked and encourage friends and partners to do the same.”

References:

  1. The research was conducted by Censuswide, with 2,044 respondents aged 16+ in UK between 27.05.2022 – 30.05.2022. The survey was conducted from a nationally representative sample of UK adults. Quotas were applied to nationally representative proportions for age, gender and region. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.

About Bupa UK

Bupa’s purpose is helping people live longer, healthier, happier lives and making a better world.

Health insurance accounts for a large part of our business with Bupa UK Insurance, the UK’s leading health insurer, providing health insurance to 2.3 million people. Bupa Global is the premium health insurance arm of Bupa, serving 490,000 customers around the world. Bupa Dental Care is the leading provider of private dentistry in the UK, providing dental services in 488 centres across the UK and Ireland. Bupa Care Services has around 6,000 residents in over 120 care homes, and 10 Richmond care villages. Bupa Health Services comprises 50 health clinics, and the Cromwell Hospital in London which provides care for insured, self-pay and international patients. Bupa directly employs around 23,000 people in the UK.