Women's sexual and reproductive health
Women's sexual and reproductive health

BLOG: Improving access to innovative sexual health care in Liverpool

Liverpool is leading the way in sexual health care, with several innovative approaches allowing us to reach more people across the city. In this blog, James Woolgar, Advanced Public Health Practitioner at Liverpool City Council, talks us through our city’s pioneering approach.

Innovative STI testing and treatment methods mean that many patients in Liverpool are now receiving their results and starting their treatment within just a few hours – we also offer a ramped up online testing offer, helped by rapid laboratory results.

While we do have high numbers of STIs in our city, this is often a marker of a good service – and is also partially explained by the fact that we have one of the highest testing rates in the country. Last year, we had a record number of people getting tested for STIs and HIV, which helps with early detection of infection and of course, prompt treatment.  

One of our novel approaches relates to improving access to HIV PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis). This is a vital, game-changing drug that helps people maintain their HIV negative status. However, certain groups have not been accessing it as well as others, with women, Black and Global Ethnic Majority communities particularly under-represented. 

Innovative new PrEP Express clinics started by axess sexual health are giving people easier access to medication, allowing some people to get their repeat prescriptions without having to see a doctor or nurse – which in turn makes more appointments available. People can be in and out in just a matter of minutes, leaving more capacity to focus on reaching other groups. This has seen our PrEP numbers rise by another 192 people since the clinics started.  

This year’s International Women’s Day saw the launch of the EmpowHerment campaign by axess sexual health, targeted specifically at women to highlight the benefits of PrEP and increase the number of women using it. Due to a lack of targeted resources, many women are unaware of PrEP and the benefits it can have on reducing HIV risk from sex. Developed in partnership between Liverpool City Council, axess sexual health and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), this campaign is the first of its kind, and will help inform future work on improving women’s PrEP access and uptake on a national level.  

Innovation in Liverpool also extends to outreach, with significant work underway to work more closely with under-served communities. The new Sexual Health On Wheels (S.H.O.W.) Bus allows practitioners and nurses to go into communities and do STI and HIV screening, cervical screening, contraception (including implants) and PrEP. Services locally are currently focusing on devising new culturally sensitive messaging and support to help engage some of our Global Ethnic Majority groups. axess also have dedicated clinics for young people, Trans and non-binary people. 

On top of all of this, Liverpool continues to press ahead in relation to its local pharmacy offer. We will soon be the first place in the country to offer contraceptive implants for free via pharmacies, with a pilot scheme beginning later this year in two pharmacies in the city. This further improves vital access to contraception in the city and is a great step in the right direction. 

Liverpool Waterfront