Valentine’s Day will have prompted many people to think about love and romance. And, says the NPA, the occasion provides an opportunity for pharmacies to promote good sexual health and answer queries customers may ask

Pharmacy support staff might find it helpful to consider the following questions, to refresh their sexual health knowledge.

How should you discuss sexual health with customers?

Pharmacy teams should not be afraid to start a conversation and engage with customers, but need to be sensitive to the fact that these are often embarrassing topics for customers to discuss. To help, teams should try to build a rapport with customers to put them at ease. Simple techniques such as matching someone’s body language, coming out from behind the counter to remove that barrier and being respectful of personal space can all help. Look out for behaviour patterns, such as looking around to see if others are watching, or avoiding eye contact. If you sense a person is uncomfortable, ask if they would rather talk in a consultation room or out of earshot of others.

What forms of contraception are available?

Access to contraception is key to safe sex. Appropriate and consistent condom use is a reliable method of preventing pregnancy and protecting both partners from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including chlamydia, gonorrhoea and HIV. You can remind customers that condoms may be purchased in the pharmacy. If a customer has had unprotected sex or the contraceptive method has failed, emergency contraception – also known as the morning after pill – can be used to prevent pregnancy. Many pharmacies offer an emergency contraception service and patients should be referred to the pharmacist.

What about STIs?

There are some common myths about sexually transmitted infections (STIs). One is that only young people can get them. In fact, it doesn’t matter whether someone is 18 or 80 years of age, STIs can affect anyone who has unprotected sex with an infected person. Another myth is that people are only at risk of STIs if they have lots of different sexual partners.

Although the risk of getting STIs increases if a person has unprotected sex with more than one person, it only takes having unprotected sex with one infected person to get an STI. One of the most common sexually transmitted infections is chlamydia. Chlamydia can be diagnosed with either a urine test or a swab of the infected area and is easily treated with antibiotics.

Many community pharmacies now offer chlamydia testing kits for patients to use at home. If a customer asks about a test, you may want to refer them to the pharmacist. NPA members can access a free e-learning module created to help medicines counter assistants assess their knowledge. Also available are video-based e-learning modules.

Contact the NPA professional development team on 01727 800402 and visit: npa.co.uk/assessandlearn for details. The NPA has also produced a series of scratch cards which help pharmacy teams to start conversations in a non-intrusive and non-judgemental way. A Chlamydia Scratch Card Pack is available from NPA sales.

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