by Kate Ebbutt
As we come to the end of the Men’s Health Awareness Month, we reflect on how men take care of their sexual health. When it comes to sexual health testing, men are in the minority. Last year, only 36% of almost 3.5 million sexual health service consultations in England  were for men – and here at Preventx, 40% of sexual health tests are carried out by men. While this is higher than the national average, we want to make sure as many men test as possible.
During Men’s Health Month, we have been considering why men are less likely to test, and how we can help them be in control of their sexual health.
Men can often be reluctant to proactively ask for help with their health. Men are less likely than women to visit a GP or other health service  giving them fewer chances to talk about their health and wellbeing. And the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles found that only 16% of men aged 16-44 had sought help or advice about their sex life, compared with 21% of women.
At Preventx we want to support men to take care of their sexual health. Our test results show that even though fewer sexual health tests are carried out by men, their results are more likely to be positive. For example, 5.8% of chlamydia tests taken by women are positive, but 6.7% of men’s tests are positive.
The picture is similar for other sexual health services, with the most recent review of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) by Public Health England (PHE) showing that, in 2020, men accounted for 53% of new STI diagnoses in England, despite fewer tests on men than women.
Men’s reluctance to visit the doctor means they’re less likely to have the opportunity to get an STI test at their GP surgery. Data from the National Chlamydia Screening Programme (NCSP) in England showed that in 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic, only 8% of men tested through the NCSP were tested at a GP surgery. This compares with 20% of women.
We also know that men often don’t get tested for STIs until they have symptoms or have been contacted through a partner notification programme. Recent changes to the NCSP mean that men without symptoms will no longer be offered opportunistic community testing for chlamydia, so men may need more encouragement to proactively get a test if they could have been at risk of chlamydia or other STIs.
As the largest provider of remote sexual health testing in the UK, we know that one way to help testing become a normal part of healthcare, is to provide easy, convenient access to sexual health services and screening. We want to help men proactively take care of their health, which is why we are running targeted projects and campaigns with our partners in Local Authorities and the NHS, particularly aimed at men in groups disproportionately affected by sexually transmitted infections. If you want to know more, get in touch at [email protected].
1. 1. PHE 2020 STI stats
2. 2. Do men consult less than women? An analysis of routinely collected UK general practice data (2013) BMJ
Gender, Equality and Health in the EU (2021)
2.6 Use of Healthcare Services, page 25, Publications Office of the European Union
3. 3. NATSAL-3 Table 76, page 82
4. 4. Preventx
5. 5. PHE 2020 STI stats
Table 1 (a)
6. 6. NCSP 2020 stats