SWINDON Pride saw the launch of the town’s first Sexual Health Week – a campaign designed not only to tackle the rise of infection but promote tolerance.

The initiative will see staff at the Great Western Hospital reach out to the public and offer people of any age, sexual orientation or background, a wealth of advice on protection, screening and the various clinics, tests and services available.

Pride on Saturday was a fitting event to kick off the awareness week, according to lead health adviser at GWH Laura Hill.

“We talk to people about their sexuality and that links in with Pride,” she said.

“Pride is about choice; it is about sex being for everybody whether you are gay, straight, old or young. It’s about what type of sex people want to have, who they want to have it with and keeping safe while having it.

“Sexual Health Week is about raising awareness of sexual health because everyone has sex. It’s not just about infections, screenings or pregnancy.

“It’s about having healthy sex lives and it’s a celebration.”

Love Life!, a website providing symptom checks and details about all services in Swindon – all in one place for the first time- also went live this week.

“The goal was putting access to all our services in one place to make it easier for people in the area to find out about them.

“That’s what the website is all about. We have two youth clinics at Carfax Street and we have clinics at Swindon College and New College. We also have a condom scheme and free chlamydia screening.”

Over the last 12 months there were more than 1,800 new diagnoses of STIs in Swindon, the most common being chlamydia with 835 cases in 2013.

The number of people in Swindon with gonorrhoea has nearly doubled since 2011, with 54 cases increasing to 103 over the two year period.

As well as improving screening in general, the team is determined to encourage early HIV diagnosis.

“What has been really fabulous is that one of the main reasons people come to us is for check-ups,” she added.

“We want people to maintain a healthy sex life and get tested whenever they start a new relationship.

“Infections like chlamydia are renowned for not showing any symptoms.

“If more people get tested it will be easier to manage and treat.

“Our priority is preventing late diagnosis of HIV. We see people coming in quite late.

“People should come every year to get tested. It’s something we are trying to encourage.”

Members of the sexual health team will be at the Brunel Centre on Friday, August 15 providing shoppers with information and advice as well as free condoms and chlamydia tests.

l The new website is available at www.swindonsexualhealth.nhs.uk