Pubs offering STI tests ‘takes away the stigma’

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Tackling taboos: pubs and bars are helping people feel less daunted about sexual health
Tackling taboos: pubs and bars are helping people feel less daunted about sexual health

Related tags: Charity

The trade has helped to reduce anxiety about sexual health checks by helping raise awareness of STI tests, a charity has said.

Volunteers from charity Terrence Higgins Trust have been visiting venues for years to offer sexual health checks, hand out free condoms and provide advice to pubgoers.

The charity works with pubs across the UK, including in Suffolk, Bedford, Cambridge and Dundee, to offer chlamydia and gonorrhoea screenings. 

Emma McLaven, service manager at the sexual health charity in Cambridge, explained pubs were particularly well suited to their outreach initiative.

More relaxed environment 

She said: “Having STI/HIV screenings at local pubs and clubs not only takes away the stigma of testing, but it also shows how easy it is to get tested. 

“Because it’s a more relaxed environment, people feel more at ease to get tested and find out more about the services we provide.

“We want to give people options to test in environments where they feel most comfortable from pubs and clubs to clinics and testing centres it’s all about what’s most convenient for you.”

“Getting tested regularly is important to ensure everyone can enjoy good sexual health,” McLaven added.

Around 8,000 people across the UK are living with undiagnosed HIV and so testing is necessary to get people on to life-saving treatment and reduce transmissions, she explained.

“People on effective HIV treatment can’t pass it on to others,” she added.

There were 144,000 cases of chlamydia and/or gonorrhoea diagnosed among people aged 15 to 24 in 2017, according to Public Health England (PHE).

Not as scary

The Castle pub in Norwich, Norfolk, has hosted the charity monthly on a Friday or Saturday in its front bar for several years. 

The Castle pub in Norwich offers STI tests each month (image: Malc Mcdonald, Geograph)
The Castle pub in Norwich offers STI tests each month (image: Malc Mcdonald, Geograph)

Pub supervisor Danny Thurston said the events helped customers feel less daunted about the prospect of doing a test.

He explained: “They have all of their self-test kits and they give out free condoms, lube, little keyrings, stickers and encourage people to come and have tests. 

“They help people fill out all the forms and do the tests with them.”

Thurston added: “When they’re here, people always go over. We get a few people get tested each time. It’s always been popular with people. 

“It’s not as scary and people aren’t as embarrassed when it’s down here. The people that do it are really fun, friendly, nice people.”

Terrence Higgins launched its Can't Pass it On​ campaign to tackle outdated beliefs about how HIV is passed on in an effort to end the stigma and discrimination faced by people living with the virus.

Another site to offer tests on weekends is The Lounge bar in St Ives, Cambridgeshire. 

Manager Stacey Lowery said: “They seem to be quite popular with the youngsters but I don’t know how many customers they manage to test as nines times out of ten I’m behind the bar.”

The volunteers work from the ladies’ toilets in a powder room to give customers privacy, she added.

“We have been been having the ladies [from Terrance Higgins] come in for a long time now they are lovely, friendly and approachable!”

Related topics: Events & Occasions

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