Confidentiality is essential if young people are to access sexual health services

Int J STD AIDS. 2006 Aug;17(8):525-9. doi: 10.1258/095646206778145686.


A survey was undertaken to determine the importance of confidentiality of sexual health clinics to young people, and their preferences for service provision. A questionnaire was given to school attenders in year 9 (age 13-14 years) at four comprehensive schools. Class leaders assisted students with literacy or language difficulties. Two hundred and ninety five questionnaires were distributed and all were returned (male 143 (48.5%), female 152 (51.5%). In all 199 (67.5%) had never used sexual health services. The importance of confidentiality (asked in two differently worded questions) was rated as 8.84 and 8.59 (mean) on a scale of 1 (not important) to 10 (very important), 166 (56.3%) rated confidentiality as most important feature of service and 254 (86.1%) were more likely to use a service if it was confidential; 161 (54.6%) would not use service if it were not confidential. Two hundred and sixty-six (90.2%) would give honest answers in a confidential service; 186 (63.1%) would not attend if they thought that child protection services would be informed; 136 (46.1%) would not want general practitioner informed of attendance; 209 (70.8%) would like regular sexual health check ups; 150 (50.8%) would prefer a young people clinic, but only 105 (35.6%) prefer a 'one-stop shop'. This study shows that confidentiality is extremely important to young people considering using a sexual health service. It is the first UK study to show that if confidentiality is lost, young people may not attend, or may not be honest when they utilize a sexual health service. This is particularly relevant at the moment in light of the threat to confidentiality for young people attending sexual health services.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • Adolescent Health Services*
  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Care Facilities
  • Confidentiality*
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Reproductive Health Services*
  • Sex Education
  • Sexual Behavior