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Our role in our customer’s sexual health

By Linden Pirrone, Guild Trainer /Assessor

As Pharmacy Assistants we are continuously looking out for our customer’s health – and sexual health is no exception. So how can we as Pharmacy Assistants help our customers when it comes to sexual health?

Why Pharmacy Assistants?

According to betterhealth.gov.au up to 88% of young people are starting to look for information about sex, sexuality and sexual health from the age of 5. While initial conversations about sex are best left to parents, Pharmacy Assistants can have a role to play.  We can easily direct young people and parents to a health care professional such as the pharmacist or other sexual health clinics if needed. As Pharmacy Assistants we are proven to be very professional, non- judgemental, maintain confidentiality and use tact and discretion.

Pharmacy Assistants can help support both young people and parents to implement safe sex practices and provide the tools necessary to initiate discussions with their children and partner’s around sexual health.

Sexually Transmittable Infections (STI)

There are a number of sexually transmittable infections (STI’s), which are predominately contracted through unsafe sexual practices and show no symptoms. If left untreated, STIs can have serious long-term consequences.

By following effective questioning techniques we could refer our customer to the pharmacist and potentially prevent customers from any long-term and detrimental consequences as a result of an undiagnosed sexually transmitted Infection (STI).

The most common STI in the developed world is Chlamydia and the rate of diagnosis in Australia have increased considerably over the past 10 years. Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that can infect the prostate, urethra and testes in men and the cervix and pelvis in women. It can be easily passed on by having unprotected sex with an infected person.

Symptoms:

There are often no symptoms however; some females have suffered symptoms such as pain urinating, unusual discharge from the vagina, pain in the lower belly, pain during sex, unusual bleeding or spotting between periods.

Long term affects:

If left untreated, women can contract infections in the cervix, leading to ectopic pregnancy (where an egg grows inside the fallopian tube) or infertility.

Tips for Pharmacy Assistants:

Symptoms of Chlamydia are very similar to that of a urinary tract infection (UTI) or period pain.  It’s a good idea to expand on protocol questioning when discussing period paid with customers. Asking customers how long they have been suffering the pain (months or years) and how often (every month, every second month) and any other symptoms no matter how subtle or infrequent can explain some unusual symptoms which could trigger a referral to the pharmacist and ultimately and early diagnosis and suitable treatment.

For more information and statistics on common STI in Australia visit: http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4102.0Main+Features10Jun+2012

If you are interested in learning more about sexual health, The Pharmacy Guild have just released a new unit SIRCPPA018 – ‘Assist customers with women’s and men’s health care products’. If you would like more information about the new unit and the new Community Pharmacy Training package contact our Queensland Branch for more information on (07) 3831 3788.

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