How can community pharmacists play a role in preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancies?

The number one way in which community pharmacists can make a real difference in preventing the spread of STIs and helping to stem the tide of teenage pregnancies is to champion sexual health.Visit the majority of pharmacies and you will really struggle to find the sexual health section.

It is often placed at the floor level or worse still behind the counter and hardly ever signposted making it challenging at best for any sensible young person trying to look after their sexual health to buy what they need.So how can we improve in delivering such an essential service and help remove any stigma and embarrassment that sadly appears to surround anything sexual in this country?

1) Although condoms may have jumped from behind the counter, they are often tucked away as if they are something to be ashamed of. We should champion the Condom as it could be potentially life-saving and compared to hormonal contraception, which can cause all kinds of unpleasant side effects for many women, plus they are pretty user-friendly! The condom is also still by far the most effective and simple product to target both STI’s and prevent pregnancies.

Where are yours sited? Why not make them easy to find by having a well-marked, eye level, sexual health section which offers bright, attractive looking products at a fair price. Try Skins condoms new Skin Cube which the company states is looking to “change the perception of contraception” – a funky looking Cube with basket appeal that contains 16 single premium quality condoms at a suggested retail price of £9.99

2) Double site condoms – why not site Dots and Ribs and Natural condoms (often preferred by women), next to tampons for women to pick up and Natural and Ultra- Thin next to male grooming products for the young men. This removes the awkward embarrassment many consumers feel when stood in front of the Sexual Health Fixture.

3) Train your staff so they are happy with and comfortable talking about sex. Positive attitudes and knowledge is key and therefore product training for staff would be a huge help. Run a session or ask them to watch the Skins Pharmacists tutorial at Get them to open the different brands of condoms, touch them, feel them and smell them so they are in an informed position to actually offer real advice about which are the most effective and natural feeling products without blushing!

4) Get down with the kids! To play a role in preventing STI’s and teenage pregnancies you need the young people to come into your pharmacy. A Community pharmacist of 30 years spoke to us saying she believes that teenagers don’t shop in pharmacies due to the lack of knowledge around what services they offer young people. She believes there is a perception that pharmacies only support people who are chronically ill and so it wouldn’t even cross their minds to enter one.  So get out there in the community – interact with schools – see if you can get involved with their Sexual Health Education programs –offer money off coupons for savvy youngsters.

Reach out to the younger generation and engage in social media campaigns with young digital influencers who can help to raise their profile.
Creating a positive environment towards sexual health and independence will give people the confidence to call in and pick up one of the easiest and most cost effective preventative products you have in your pharmacy – the condom.