Understanding barriers to sexual health service access among substance-misusing women on the South East coast of England

Natalie Edelman, H. Patel, A. Glasper, Leanne Bogen-Johnston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVES: Evidence suggests substance-misusing women (SMW) experience disproportionate sexual health morbidity and poor uptake of interventions including contraception and cervical screening, yet there has been little investigation of sexual health service access issues for this population. METHODS: Twenty women with problem drug use in Hastings in South East England, UK participated in a one-to-one interview with a researcher to explore experiences and beliefs surrounding access to a range of sexual health service interventions. Transcripts were open-coded and themes were elicited and organised concerning barriers to access. RESULTS: Drug-use lifestyles, trauma and low self-worth framed the lives of SMW and hindered sexual health service access through: depleted practical and emotional resources to enable attendance; high perceived emotional cost of discussing sexual histories, and coping with tests and unfavourable results; and low anticipated value of sexual health interventions due to low perception and minimisation of risk and perceived incompatibility between drug use and sexual well-being. CONCLUSIONS: A range of practical, social and emotional barriers to sexual health service access exist for this population, presenting a context from within which use of services may come at considerable personal cost to SMW. Interventions addressing anticipated stigma and emotional, hygiene and fiscal concerns are warranted for this population.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jan 2013


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