Figures released by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) this morning have shown that the state of sexual health among the UK population is poor, with STI rates reaching record levels. The figures have also revealed that gay men are of particular concern.

Terrence Higgins Trust’s Chief Executive Sir Nick Partridge said: “It’s staggering that almost half a million people each year are affected by preventable sexually transmitted infections. Gay men continue to top the list, accounting for two thirds of syphilis and over a third of gonorrhea diagnoses last year, while being only 6% of the population.

“We know about the risks of HIV transmission and these figures show that it’s just as important to be aware of STIs too. Getting an STI, like chlamydia or gonorrhea, makes it much easier to pick up or pass on other, more serious infections, including HIV.”

The Terrence Higgins Trust run several STI prevention campaigns, including Young and Free, which seeks to encourage young people to get tested for chlamydia, an STI that can often go unnoticed because of the relative lack of symptoms, but can lead to serious problems if left untreated.

According to the HPA’s figures, chlamydia among gay men and men who have sex with men has risen 341 per cent in the last ten years.

Sir Nick: “We know how to reduce the risks: enjoy safer sex, use condoms, and if you’ve had unsafe sex go to a GUM or community testing clinic. All sexually active gay men should have a full sexual health screen and an HIV test at least once a year. We can – and we must – improve our sexual health.”

Speaking to PinkNews.co.uk, Jason Warriner at THT said that although websites such as Gaydar and the new Grindr iPhone app had increased opportunities for meeting for sex, there was no hard evidence that the popularity of social neworking sites made a significant contribution to the rising statistics.

Mr Warriner cited Netreach, the new service from Terrence Higgins Trust for Gaydar users in England and Wales, which allows users to talk to trained outreach workers in the website’s chat rooms or on the general chat boards. He added: “The key thing [to know] is that websites such as Gaydar can also be used as vehicles to get across messages and offer advice about safe sex, which is what we aim to do with Netreach.”

To see a Channel 4 News interview with Sir Nick Partridge of THT, please scroll down.