In an effort to identify and treat a potentially huge unknown population at risk of untreated Chlamydia, women requesting emergency contraception will be offered fast-tracked screening for the disease.
Chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by a tiny bacterium, Chlamydia trachomatis, can lead to infertility, and is very common among young adults and teenagers. However, since Chlamydia may be mostly asymptomatic, most of the infected people are unaware that they harbor the disease.
Young women asking for the morning-after pill at pharmacies will be given a discreet plain purple box, containing a bottle for their urine sample, free postage and a confidential questionnaire offering them a variety of ways they can receive their diagnosis within three working days.
If the event of a Chlamydia diagnosis, they and their partner will then be referred to a genito-urinary clinic of their choice for full sexual health screening and treatment. The whole process from test to treatment should be completed in just two weeks.
The study is in response to a Department of Health drive for Primary Care Trusts to offer Chlamydia screening to under 25s in non genito-urinary clinic settings by April 2006.
The University of Manchester study, to be launched on 3 January 2006 and funded by The BUPA Foundation, hopes to screen 2,000 women at pharmacies.
Chlamydia screening will be offered to another 1,000 women asking for emergency contraception at family planning clinics and 400 asking for it at the Manchester Brook Advisory Service.
Those involved hope that important information will be gathered for the planning of screening in the Greater Manchester NHS region and possibly throughout the UK.
Chlamydia infection is very easily treated with just one dose of four tablets in the majority of cases, and timely diagnosis will be a boon for women concerned about sexually transmitted infections.