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ss triple helix - spring 2005,  Chlamydia screening at Boots - De-moralising medicine

Chlamydia screening at Boots - De-moralising medicine

Boots the chemist is to offer a screening test and treatment for the UK's most common sexually transmitted infection, chlamydia. [1] This is part of a government-backed national screening strategy [2] aimed at reducing the effects and spread of chlamydia infection which is asymptomatic in the majority of men and women and can produce late infertility in women (and probably men). This latest move is a response to the spiralling chlamydia infection rates increasing by about 8% per year. This epidemic has been caused by a huge rise in both the frequency of extramarital sex and the number of sexual partners.

Christians should be concerned about the expansion of this programme. Consider first the means. Like many of the other sites for chlamydia screening, the high street chemist has been chosen as a location for its potential to provide a confidential environment 'out of communion', except for contact tracing, with the rest of the patient's clinical care by their GP or specialist. It also replaces the valuable clinician/patient relationship with an advice leaflet. Such confidentiality is designed to increase the uptake of the screening. But this clinical fragmentation and impersonal context threatens our caring for the whole patient.

But it is more than this. Such an approach removes all opportunity for the clinician to warn the patient about the dangers of further extra-marital sexual activity. Such a warning never seems easy to give our patients, because it takes time in a hard-pressed day and it runs counter to the 'non-judgemental' attitude that our society so stridently demands. Yet we need to remember that it is never God's desire for medical care to be given outside of a moral context. He expects Christian doctors to take opportunities in their surgeries and clinics to explain to patients the good things that result from obeying God's commands and the bad things that happen when they don't.

We should also challenge the false creed of the programme's promoters who think that it is really possible to reduce the overall harm of extra-marital sex. Those who attend Boots will have avoided hearing warnings about the dangers of further extra-marital sex. Instead they will be relieved to continue their life-style unrestrained by the fear of spreading infection or creeping infertility and so seemingly avoid the consequences of their sin. However, more extra-marital sex will lead to more STIs and more unwanted pregnancies. Like the 'safe(r) sex' campaign the result will be a worsening rather than improving of the sexual health of our nation.

  2. LaMontagne DS et al. Establishing the National Chlamydia Screening Programme in England: results from the first full year of screening. Sex Transm Infect 2004; 80:335-341
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