Young patients open to sexual health advice in GP consultations

GPs should offer chlamydia tests, contraceptive advice and condoms to patients aged 16-24 in unrelated consultations, say researchers who found young people prefer to receive this information in general practice.

General practice is the preferred location over other sexual health service providers for young people aged 16-24 to receive sexual health tests, advice and contraceptives, researchers have found.

GPs should ensure that ‘3Cs and HIV’ testing services are made available at their practice in light of the results, they added.

This involves the opportunistic offering of chlamydia and HIV testing, contraception information and free condoms during routine appointments.

Researchers conducted 30 interviews with male and female patients aged 16-24 immediately before or after a routine practice attendance as part of the study, published in the British Journal of General Practice (BJGP).

GP sexual health advice

Respondents said they perceived general practice to be a convenient, confidential and appropriate setting to receive ‘routine’ sexual health advice and testing.

But some cited embarrassment and unease, religion and lack of awareness about tests as potential barriers.

The researchers recommended reassuring confidentiality and ensuring the offer is made in a non-judgmental way to help ease the topic into a consultation.

Patients also said they would be more open to the conversation if it was part of a wider offer made to people in their age group, rather than feeling they had been singled out.

The results suggest many patients in this age group lack essential knowledge about sexual health, the authors said. Implementing the measures could improve this as well as help change risky sexual health behaviours, they added.

One patient said: ‘If I was concerned about chlamydia, I’d rather do it at my GP’s surgery because my GP knows me and I’d feel more sort of comfortable discussing options with them, and knowing that they know my history and stuff like that.’

Chlamydia test

The researchers said: ‘Young people were open to being approached routinely in general practice about their sexual health.

‘Convenience was a key factor, meaning that participants indicated a clear preference for receiving 3Cs and HIV, where appropriate, at their GP practice as long as it was done in a confidential and non-judgmental manner.

‘Because of a reported lack of advertising, participants were not fully aware of all the sexual health services available in their GP practice and the exact testing process.’

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