Uniform guidelines for STD tests at public health clinics in Helsinki region
Chlamydia and HIV tests given on demand
People asking to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases in the Helisnki region are to be given access to the same tests and treatments, regardless of what municipal health clinic they visit.
The National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) has drawn up guidelines for health centres in the Helsinki metropolitan area for a uniform testing practice, and for establishing clarity in the division of labour between the health clinics and the Clinic of Sexually Transmitted Diseases at the Helsinki University Central Hospital.
According to the guidelines, all who ask for Chlamydia and HIV tests are given one. Tests for rarer STDs are given only if a patient has symptoms, or if an interview reveals high-risk behaviour.
Eija Hiltunen-Back, a specialist doctor working for THL says that practice has previously varied from one location to another.
“I think that in these cases the question is one of a lack of experience”, she says, noting that in places where there is little demand for testing for STDs, staff may not be sure which diseases to test for. In the future nobody should have to hear that there is no point in testing someone, everyone will be tested for chlamydia and HIV at the very least, Hiltunen-Back says.
Not even getting an HIV test has been automatic everywhere. Helsinki’s AIDS support centre regularly administers tests to people who have been turned down for STD tests at their municipal health centres or occupational health services.
“About 30 people are tested every week, and messages like this are heard from many mouths every week - most recently this past week”, says heatlh nurse Leila Hammarberg.
Municipal health centres in the Helsinki region deny that access to testing has been haphazard.
Antti Iivanainen, the director of Helsinki’s municipal health centres, says that the clinics have had guidelines for STD testing previously as well.
“I believe that we have functioned in a uniform manner. At least I have not heard any complaints”, Iivanainen says.
In Espoo the practice in the past year has been that HIV and chlamydia tests have required a referral form a nurse.
“At the moment, taking a sample for an HIV test is considered quite inexpensive. Finding just a single case and treating it in time saves the equivalent of many times the cost of the test”, says Stiina Zitting, a doctor responsible for treatment of infectious diseases in Espoo.
In Vantaa, municipal doctor Liisa Valtonen says that the new THL guidelines have slightly lowered the threshold for taking an HIV sample.
Some kind of a sexually transmitted disease is found in one out of five patients who are tested.