Sexual health is an area which often prompts embarrassment and reluctance to seek help and advice. For the advisors who work in sexual health in Gloucestershire, the provision of services which are free, confidential and accessible to all is a top priority.
We provide services which support people with routine and emergency sexual health requirements. Garry Woodcock works as a sexual health adviser in the county’s sexual health team which is highly trained to help people in an approachable and confidential manner:
“We provide advice on all methods of contraception and work with people to choose the right option for their lifestyle. This works in conjunction with advice you may receive from your GP but offers a more in depth focus on contraception and choices available to you. Contraception is a very personal choice and our advisors are trained to reflect this choice in the advice given whilst taking into account additional advice which people may have already received from school, college or family members..
“The C-Card scheme runs across the county to provide free condoms to under 25s. After registering with the scheme, a card is issued for use at a number of distribution points where free condoms can be collected including colleges, youth clubs, GPs and pharmacies. As with all of our services, C-Card distribution points offer high levels of discretion and confidentiality.
“We can also offer support with emergency contraception where people have had unprotected sex, forgotten to take their pill or the condom has split. In these circumstances we are very aware that people are looking for reassurance and support so the service we provide helps everyone to feel safe and looked after regardless of their personal circumstances. We also deal with more complex requirements for those wanting to talk about contraception alongside conditions such as cancer where pregnancy isn’t an option due to high levels of treatment. Our pregnancy advisory service is also available for pregnancy testing and options on unplanned pregnancies.
“Free and confidential routine screening for STIs is provided to anyone regardless of sexuality, age or cultural background. People can either attend an open clinic or book an appointment for testing for Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, Syphilis and HIV. Further STIs can also be tested for where required and if signs of any infections are found you will be offered free and confidential advice and treatment.”
The sexual health team works in conjunction with a number of partners in the county to provide support in all areas of sexual health and contraception as well as wider relationship counselling and support. These partners include The Terrence Higgins Trust, which provides a range of counselling services to support to those living with HIV in the county, midwifery, GPs and community pharmacies.
Cllr Dorcas Binns, Gloucestershire County Council’s cabinet member for public health and communities said: “Since Contraception and STI testing services became the responsibility of Gloucestershire County Council in April we have prioritised prevention and support for improved access, education and support throughout the county.
“We continue to work in partnership with sexual health providers, youth services, education and hospitals to ensure our residents have access to free and confidential advice and treatment.”
The Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC)), based at Hope House, provides a support service to those who have been victims of sexual assault or to anyone who is close to a victim. SARC is run in collaboration with Gloucestershire Police so that victims have the option of referring the assault to the police for forensic examination and further evidence gathering. This is only done if the victim is happy to involve police.
Sexual health services are available across the county, and at Hope House on Great Western Road in Gloucester on 0300 422 6201 and Benhall Clinic on College Road in Cheltenham on 0300 422 4279. Free and confidential services can be accessed across the county from GP surgeries, minor injury units (MIUs)), out of hours services, some pharmacies and school and college nurses.