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Diagnostics Blog


Sexual Health Testing: faster can be better

Sep 17 2012

This week is Sexual Health Week, it is running from 17-23 September. This year the Family Planning Association (FPA) and Brook are working together. They have launched a campaign XES – We Can't Go Backwards because they believe that across the UK there are areas where people are not getting the appropriate access to sexual health services. This includes access to both contraception and sexual health testing.

Sexual Health Info


• genital Chlamydia trachomatis is the commonest Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) in England
• 10-30% of infected women develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
• around 9% of sexually active young women are likely to be infected
• around 70% of infections are asymptomatic and so, are liable to remain undetected, putting women at risk of developing PID
• screening for genital chlamydia infection may reduce PID and ectopic pregnancy


• cases of gonorrhea rose steadily from 1999 and peaked in 2002. Since then, the number of new cases has declined
• the highest rates of diagnoses are among men aged 20-24 years and women aged 16-19 years
• 50% of women and 10% of men with gonorrhoea have no symptoms at all.


• the number of diagnoses of syphilis has risen substantially in the past decade in the UK. There have been several local outbreaks across England, the largest of which was in London between 2001 and 2004
• syphilis is still one of the less common sexually transmitted infections in the UK – between 2009 and 2010, there were 2,624 cases of syphilis diagnosed in the UK
• the primary and secondary stages are when you are most infectious to other people. In the latent phase (and usually around two years after becoming infected), syphilis cannot be passed on to others but can still cause symptoms.

And diseases which will be familiar to those who follow Testing Tuesday are:

Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C

These are viral infections that can be transmitted through sexual contact. Hepatitis B and C affect the liver and can severely damage it. Treatment with interferon is available, but this drug therapy may have serious side effects.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

HIV is associated with AIDS. This virus attacks and destroys certain white blood cells (T-helper lymphocytes) that are involved in the immune system. As the number of these cells is reduced, the ability of your body to fight off infections also decreases. This eventually results in death. Although there is no cure, early detection allows for treatment with anti-viral therapies that can help to prolong life.

At present the majority of diagnostic IVD tests are provided by a central laboratory, remote from the patient, which requires communication between your doctor and the lab with respect to both the information (i.e. nature of the test and result) and delivery of the specimen to the laboratory. Consequently there is a gap between the taking of the sample and the delivery of the result, thereby necessitating two visits by patients tot heir clinicians. This disruption in the diagnostics process can not only lead to errors but also, especially in the case of sexual health testing, be a cause of increased inconvenience or embarrassment for patients. Testing at the point of care can reduce these delays enabling requests for tests, decisions and actions all to be accomplished in one visit. Point of care testing can:

• reduce the time to decision making
• reduce number of visits
• enable patients to perform their own tests (if clinically appropriate)

There are many BIVDA member companies which manufacture or supply sexual health tests. You can find out more by looking at our point of care directory.

The FPA are also keen to hear about your experiences of accessing sexual health services as they are creating an interactive map, plotting these. You can follow them on Twitter @xescampaign or interact via our weekly hash tag #TestingTuesday.