Young people * Women's health * Men's health * Healthy living * Sexual health

Sharp increase in sexually transmitted infections in UK

Sharp increase in sexually transmitted infections in UK Almost half a million new cases last year

Almost half a million people in the UK contracted a sexually transmitted infection last year, new figures revealed.

And young people - particularly women - are most affected, experts at the UK Health Protection Agency (HPA) said.

Last year 482,696 new cases of STIs were reported by sexual health clinics across the UK, almost 12,000 more than the year before.

Around two thirds of new infections in women were in the under-25s, including 73 per cent of all new cases of gonorrhoea and 66 per cent of all new genital warts cases.

Another cause for concern is the rise in strains of gonorrhoea which are resistant to the antibiotic cefixime, which is used to treat the infection.

In all women diagnosed with a chlamydia infection, 88 per cent were under 25. The Agency said the rise is in part due to tests which are more sensitive at picking up the disease, but unsafe sex also plays a role.

In men, over half of new infections were in also in the under 25 group, including 41 per cent of male gonorrhoea diagnoses, 47 per cent of male genital warts, and 69 per cent of male chlamydia diagnoses.

The peak age for an STI in women is between the age of 19 and 20 and between 20 and 23 for men.

Of all the 15 to 24 year olds diagnosed with an STI in 2009, around one in ten of will become re-infected within a year, the Agency said.

High rates of STIs have also been found among gay men.

Dr Gwenda Hughes, head of the HPA’s STI section said: “These figures also highlight the vulnerability of young women. Many studies have shown that young adults are more likely to have unsafe sex and often they lack the skills and confidence to negotiate safer sex.

“Re-infection is also a worrying issue - the numbers we’re seeing in teenagers are of particular concern as this suggests teenagers are repeatedly putting their own, as well as others, long term health at risk from STIs.”

Overall, the UK-wide figures show that chlamydia continues to be the most common sexually transmitted infection in the UK.

Last year there were 217, 570 new cases, a 7 per cent rise compared with the previous year. Infection with the bacterium can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility.

For the first time the HPA released figures showing which local areas and cities have the highest STI rates.

STI hotspots included London boroughs, Brighton and Hove, Nottingham City, Blackpool, Manchester Liverpool and Southampton.

Dr Hughes also said: "The safest way to protect yourself against an STI is to use a condom with new partners.

"Sexually active under 25 year olds should be tested for Chlamydia every year or when they change their partner."

This article was published on Wed 25 August 2010



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