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Do you see a rise in demand for your family planning services during and after the holiday season?
After Christmas is a really busy time for us. The weather’s nice, people are out and about more, you’re catching up with people you may not have seen for a while and we’re all just generally enjoying ourselves. Sometimes people can get caught up in that and forget that the behaviours they engage in during that time might put them at risk of STIs or unplanned pregnancies.
People tend to be more blasé about their sexual health, and perhaps their health in general, when alcohol is flowing a bit more freely. Often we see people who have been coerced into sex, or have felt pressure to have sex that they didn’t want to have, when they or the people they’re with have been drinking.
Is there a particular group of people that may neglect their sexual health during this time?
Honestly, we’d like to see a few more men coming into the centres and having sexual health checks, particularly young men. Traditionally more women come in for appointments because they’re seeking the contraceptive pill, so when they do we’re able to chat to them about potentially giving a urine sample or doing an STI check. That’s how we diagnose the majority of STIs.
Tell us a little bit about your services…..
We’ve got 2 main sites. One in Box Hill and the other in the city, as well as a smaller clinic in Hopper’s Crossing. All sites have drop in appointments so you don’t have to plan ahead, just come by and we’ll do everything we can to help you. We have some services tailored specifically for young people and our Action Centre is for under 25s.
A lot of people don’t realise how easy testing usually is. For many people it’s as simple as a urine test and if they need to do swabs often we show them how to do it themselves.
Is there any advice you’d give to people who may find themselves having an issue with their sexual health at a time when traditional services may be closed?
A lot of people who are at risk of unplanned pregnancies don’t realise that if they want to acess emergency contraceptives (not ‘the contraceptive pill’ but a ‘morning after’ pill which decreases the risk of falling pregnant if taken within a specific time after having unprotected sex) then they don’t have to get a prescription from a doctor, or a general health clinic that may not be open over the holiday season, they can go straight to a pharmacy.
Although, of course that’s not going to protect you from STIs, so the best way to keep yourself safe is to always use a condom. Free condoms are available from many health and community service organisations.
Plus, there’s some good news, in the past couple of years we’ve seen an increase in the number of young people who are making appointments with us- not because they’re concerned that they’ve got a particular STI or have engaged in unsafe sex but just to be proactive and check that they’re OK.
Check out Family Planning Victoria’s website for more info, contact details or to make an appointment.