Despite using protection, one 24-year-old Portsmouth woman knew something wasn’t right.
Bethany, whose name has been changed for this article, decided to get tested for chlamydia.
She hopes her story will encourage more people to get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Although she had been tested last August, an experience before Christmas prompted her to get checked again.
She says: ‘I have the contraceptive implant and had been with my partner for a few years.
‘Last summer myself and a friend decided we should double-check and get ourselves checked out for any infections.
‘That came back absolutely fine, as I thought it would.
‘My implant was due for a renewal in January and I came in to the clinic in December to get that changed.
‘During that time I had had a break from my boyfriend, and had been with another sexual partner.
‘Although we had used another form of contraception, I wasn’t sure it had worked.
‘So I thought I would get tested again and this time it came back as positive for chlamydia.’
Chlamydia is the most commonly diagnosed STI in the UK, affecting both men and women and is the most common STI in the age range of 15 to 24-year-olds.
There are around 200,000 young adults, aged between 15 to 24-year-olds living in Hampshire.
According to Solent NHS Trust, from April to November last year, seven per cent of those screened tested positive. In that time frame 8,465 young adults in Portsmouth were screened, with 598 coming back with a positive result.
Chlamydia is largely an invisible infection, which carries no symptoms and without getting tested, individuals will probably not know anything is wrong.
If left untreated it can cause long-term health implications for both young men and women, causing long-term pelvic pain and infertility in women.
Bethany was treated at St Mary’s Community Health Campus in Milton Road, Milton, which has a dedicated sexual health services department.
‘The whole process is really simple, you go in to reception and get a ticket number,’ adds Bethany.
‘You give details like your name, date of birth and address and then sit down until you’re called up.
‘After that a nurse calls you in to another room and get asked questions about your sex life and contraception.
‘Then I was given a pot with a cotton wool swab on the end.
‘I was told exactly what to do and was able to do that in private, before handing the swab back to the nurse.
‘I also had a blood test for HIV.
‘The first test was in August, I wasn’t expecting to have anything, but it was very reassuring to know it was the case.
‘The second time when the result came back positive, I was absolutely gutted I had something.’
Bethany is encouraging people to make use of the free and confidential service.
She says: ‘All the nurses make sure you’re feeling comfortable and are very understanding.
‘You are asked what the best way is to be contacted and then asked to come in as soon as you can.
‘When I got the call I went in that evening after work.
‘I was shocked, but the nurse was really reassuring.
‘I was told it’s treatable and it’s not my fault.
‘They really are good. They don’t make you feel rubbish and make you feel good.
‘I was told all about chlamydia and was given a prescription of four tablets to take on an empty stomach all in one go.
‘Then you can’t have sex for seven days after that. Then you have another test six weeks later to make sure it’s clear.
‘I’m now back with my partner and told him about things straight away.
‘If anyone is unsure about things like I was, then I would say get checked – not having sex for a week is a lot better than having the infection leading to infertility.’
EARLY TESTING IS KEY
THE key to treating chlamydia is making sure it’s picked up early.
That’s the advice being given by Carole Druce, who is lead nurse of the chlamydia team in Hampshire, which is run by Solent NHS Trust.
She says: ‘Infections are treatable if you know about them.
‘That is the crux of the problem, as a lot of STIs are a-symptomatic.
‘We target the 18 to 25-year-old age group, as this is when people are exploring and finding out more about themselves.
‘But there are also cases when people get to around 40 because they have had a divorce and are experiencing things again with someone else.
‘The important thing to do is get checked if you have had unprotected sex, or there has been a problem with the contraception.
‘The test is simple, painless and easy to do.
‘If you don’t want to come in to the clinic then you can order a kit, which is sent to your home.
‘If caught quickly it can be treated.
‘But if it’s left, then it can cause all sorts of problems.
‘For women it can cause your tubes to become blocked, leading to infertility.
‘Or if you are pregnant and you’re giving birth, it could be passed on to your child causing them problems with their eyes or pneumonia.
‘That is why it’s so important to get tested.’
To find out more, or to order a test kit, visit letstalkaboutit.nhs.uk, text SCREEN to 66 777 or call the sexual health services on 0300 300 2016.