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Chlamydia: to help women, screen men

The Forum is calling for more men to be screened for chlamydia.

The Forum says that in the two years since it was set up, the National Chlamydia Screening Programme has screened fourteen times as many women as men — yet it is known that men and women carry the chlamydia infection in equal numbers and most women are infected by sexual contact with men.

The Forum has published a new study showing how to get more men to volunteer for chlamydia testing. Success was achieved by a combination of factors, including:

  • partnership between the NHS and local communities,
  • male-friendly promotional materials,
  • free self-test kits and
  • the availability of treatment at local pharmacies.

The Forum believes that the results of the two-year project could point the way to persuading men to take their health more seriously, so improving the health of women as well.

Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection diagnosed at genito-urinary medicine clinics in the UK and diagnoses have been rising steadily since the 1990s. In 2003, approximately 40,000 cases were diagnosed in men and approximately 50,000 cases in women. In at least 50 per cent of cases in men and 70 per cent of cases in women, chlamydia has no symptoms. Chlamydia is easily and effectively treated by antibiotics. But if untreated it can lead to infertility in men and women.

In an unusual approach, the MHF project focused on the workplace to target 4,000 men. The aim was to increase men's awareness of chlamydia, to promote the adoption of safer sexual practices, particularly among young men, and to encourage men to seek screening and treatment where appropriate.

In partnership with the local Primary Care Trust, the Forum provided urine testing kits and health promotion literature in six work places in Telford, Shropshire and men were invited to return their urine samples to a local laboratory. Those men testing positive were then invited to visit their general practitioner, their local genito urinary clinic or to go to their pharmacist to get a one-off course of antibiotics.

Of the 400 people who took the opportunity to take the chlamydia test, almost 80 per cent were male.  Almost one in ten of the total target audience of men aged under 30 chose to take up the offer of screening and of those over three per cent tested positive for chlamydia.  The majority of those who tested positive preferred to seek treatment at a pharmacy rather than go to their GP or a GUM clinic.

David Wilkins, Policy Officer of the Men's Health Forum, said that pharmacists treating chlamydia without first seeing their GP or visiting a GUM clinic was a groundbreaking development.

'We undertook this study because of our concern that the focus of almost all national planning and investment was on advising, educating and screening women. That approach seemed short-sighted. In order effectively to improve the health of all — but of women most particularly - we must find ways of encouraging men to take their sexual health more seriously and to change their behaviour. Encouraging men to take up chlamydia screening is a vital part of that.'

He said that the results of this study demonstrated again just how difficult it was to persuade men to take control of their own sexual health — but it was not impossible. Communicating with men in their work place was one important approach and in this study a small but significant number of men discovered that they were suffering from chlamydia.

  • The project was funded jointly by the Department of Health, the National Pharmaceutical Association, which represents the majority of community pharmacy owners in the UK, and Roche Diagnostics, who manufacture the urine-testing machine.
  • Download the full report and the press release here.

Page created on March 31st, 2005

Page updated on May 25th, 2010