By Kirsty Topping
A BRAND new sexual health clinic is putting off patients because of its enormous sign.
The name of Chalmers Sexual Health Clinic in Edinburgh is spelled out in foot-high, shiny metal letters that have proved too indiscreet for some.
Some patients are staying away from the £8m centre for fear of being labelled “skanks”, according to MSP Kezia Dugdale.
The politician claims the sign is too bold and that many of her constituents are wary of being seen near the facility because of the stigma of sexually transmitted infections.
But health campaigners have hit back saying public attitudes – rather than the sign – need to be altered.
Ms Dugdale said it would attract more visitors if it was more discreet.
She said: “I have received complaints about not just the signage but the service also.
“Surely ‘Chalmers Street Clinic’ would see people finding the address just as well.
“I recently overheard three schoolgirls outside working up the courage to go in. As they walked past the sign, one said ‘People are going to think we are total skanks going in here’.
However Guy Slade, the parliamentary spokesman for the Terrance Higgins Trust, a charity which promotes awareness of HIV and AIDS, said: “Sexual health has been a taboo in the past but it is becoming more and more normal for people to discuss and seek treatment.
“People wouldn’t object to a heart clinic being labeled as such so why a sexual health clinic?
“It’s public attitudes to sexual health and the stigma attached that need changing, not the sign.”
Edinburgh has the highest rate of sexually transmitted disease (STDs) in Scotland, though cases of chlamydia are falling.
More than 10,000 patents have visited the centre since its opening in June, which NHS Lothian says had justified its decision to open the £8m facility.
Ms Dugdale said to make matters worse, patients who did make it into the clinic were faced with long waiting times to be seen.
She said: “Constituents have also contacted me complaining about waiting times when phoning for an appointment and the length of queuing within the facility.
“People need to feel reassured when seeking help on these matters and I believe all these problems only combine to inhibit this.”
Jamie Megaw, Strategic Programme Manager for Sexual Health Services, said he understood Kezia’s concerns but added: “As with any new building or service, we occasionally come across teething problems and we are currently evaluating how the service is operating to see if there are any improvements we can make.
“As part of this evaluation, we are keen to take on board the views of patients and staff about all aspects of the service.
“We are aware there has been an issuewith the telephone system and we are working to improve how the system works for our patients.”