Students order about 20,000 STD tests a year through the FSHS home testing website. In this article, a public health nurse working at the FSHS shares information about STDs and when to get tested.
What are sexually transmitted diseases?
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are a group of diseases caused by bacteria, viruses and protozoa transmitted mainly through sexual contact. The most common STDs are chlamydia, genital warts, genital herpes, syphilis, gonorrhoea and HIV.
How are STDs transmitted?
STDs are transmitted during unprotected sex, via broken skin or the mucous membranes of the penis, vagina, rectum and mouth. Condoms and oral sex barriers worn throughout sex protect against most transmissions, and a water-soluble or silicone-based lubricant further reduces the risk of a condom rupturing. However, genital warts and genital herpes can be transmitted outside the areas protected by condoms, even during the symptom-free phase of the disease.
STDs are not passed on by swimming pool water, sauna benches or toilet seats. Vaccination gives protection against hepatitis A, hepatitis B and genital warts.
When should you be tested for STDs?
You should always be tested for STDs if you’ve had unprotected sex or if a condom has ruptured, especially if you have symptoms typical of STDs, such as abnormal discharge from the urethra or vagina, or genital sores. It’s good to remember that STDs don’t always involve symptoms. Even someone who is symptom-free can spread the disease without knowing it, so testing for STDs is important!
There’s no single test for all STDs. As the tests are disease-specific, make sure you know which STDs you’re being tested for.
How common are STDs in Finland?
Statistics on the prevalence of STDs are kept by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). The most common STDs diagnosed in Finland are chlamydia (around 16,000 cases a year), genital warts and genital herpes. Around 200 cases of syphilis and more than 600 cases of gonorrhoea are reported annually. There are also 180 new HIV infections every year, the majority of which are contracted via sexual contact.
STDs can be contracted at any age, but some of them are more common in younger people. The majority of new chlamydia infections, for example, occur in people under 25, while the number of gonorrhoea infections has increased particularly in people under 30.
Do students need to pay for treatment of STDs?
Under the public healthcare system testing for STDs as well as their treatment are free of charge. This also applies to the FSHS, whose services are mainly funded publicly. Depending on where the student lives, free medication for STDs can be obtained through the public healthcare system or on prescription from a pharmacy. Students should provide a follow-up sample after completing their course of medication.
Does testing for STDs always require an appointment?
FSHS clients can order a chlamydia and gonorrhoea test kit for home testing at the FSHS home testing website. When your test result is ready, you will be notified by SMS. Please note that if you do not contact the FSHS after receiving a positive result, we will contact you to ensure you receive the treatment you need. To use the service, you must be entitled to use the FSHS services and have a Finnish personal identity code.
You can also complete a form concerning STDs in Self. The nurse from the digital services processing your form will then make the necessary laboratory referrals, so you can have your sample taken in a laboratory.
You can also contact the FSHS’s assessment of need for treatment service by phone or via SelfChat.
Is remote testing for STDs common at the FSHS?
Between January and September 2023, a total of 16,972 tests for chlamydia and gonorrhoea were taken via the FSHS home testing website. This number includes all urine samples and samples taken from mucous membranes – for either diagnostic or follow-up purposes. Most testing takes place around public holidays, such as after New Year or May Day and in the early autumn after the start of studies.
Sources: Terveysportti.fi, THL.fi, FSHS statistics.
The author is a sex counsellor and a public health nurse working at the FSHS.
Home testing for STDs provided by the FSHS
An article about STDs