‘The whole experience was really daunting’: Where and how Manc students can get tested for STIs

The three letter acronym that gets every parent and student quivering

University is a time for finding yourself, making friends, getting your grades… and sex.

Sex. Everyone is having it. No matter your sexuality or gender, university seems to be the time and place for sexual exploration and experimentation. With Manchester being rated one of the kinkiest cities in the UK, and both MMU and UoM bagging themselves in the top quartile of the most sexually active universities, it’s fair to say celibacy is not popular with Mancunians.

However, as with all good things, sex doesn’t come without its risks, especially when the dreaded three-letter abbreviation STI gets thrown into the mix.

There are over 30 different bacteria, viruses and parasites known to be transmitted through sexual contact, eight of which are known as sexually transmitted infections. Sometimes, the side effects of these are simply a minor inconvenience. But, four of these STIs are incurable, with Gonorrhoea on its way to becoming untreatable as it grows resistant to the drugs used to treat it.

A slight complication arises when someone “forgets a condom”. It’s a big moment: do you risk pregnancy and STI transmission? Or do you just take the plunge? It’s only once after all…

But, incurable STIs have been known to negatively impact fertility, sight and can even lead to brain damage and paralysis. The seriousness of the potential repercussions of just a “one off” is not to be downplayed.

And the danger may be closer than you think. Studies have shown Manchester to have the highest rate of people catching STIs in the North West, with 929.6 STIs per 100,000 residents and more than 5,500 diagnoses in total.

Most STIs are easy to treat (if caught early), and the danger quickly removed. But, the taboo of having an STI can make anyone feel isolated, despite how sexually liberal our society claims to be.

One student, who chose to remain anonymous, told the Manchester Tab: “I felt really on my own, the whole experience was really daunting. I never would have tested if [the person they had sexual intercourse with] hadn’t told me I might be at risk. I’d never tested before and didn’t even know who to turn to. I didn’t even want anyone to know.”

So, what’s the solution? Celibacy, I hear you say? Is this just the Tab’s way of telling young people to ignore their burning hormones of sexual desire and live a life of chastity? Absolutely not. Sex, in whatever way you interpret it to be, is something to be enjoyed and explored. But, not without precautions.

The only time sex is truly safe from STIs is if you are having sex with someone who has tested negative since having other partners. However, the likelihood of that happening in your university years may be low, as people sleep around fairly frequently. The general rule of thumb is to get tested after every new sexual partner for young people under 25, especially young people with ovaries. Still, sometimes that’s not always possible so getting tested at least every 3-6 months is vital.

Where can I get tested?

So, where and how can you get tested in Manchester? The Northern Sexual Health supplies free testing kits, with swabs and blood prick tests for HIV. A limited amount become available every morning at 8.30am so make sure you sign in early to guarantee yourself one. Brook Manchester also supplies free testing kits to those between the ages of 16-24 and living in Manchester.

You can also visit The Hathersage Centre by Manchester Royal Infirmary for in-person testing.

For LGBTQIA+ people and men who have sex with men, the LGBT Foundation offers in-person testing and home testing kits.

So to conclude, STIs, while they are something to be wary of, are easily testable and treatable. And most importantly, not something to be embarrassed about. Nowadays, everyone’s either had one or knows someone who has, as data shows that 30% of students will get an STI in their first year alone.

In the words of the great TikToker Isaac HP, “chlamydia is clout”.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

•  We asked Manchester students how they really feel about the UCU strikes

• 10,000 University of Manchester students will receive £230 to help with the cost of living crisis

• Sugar babies, strippers and feet pic sellers: Manchester students find unique ways to finance their uni lives