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Young people ‘failed by sex ed’ as under-24s now account for a THIRD of sexually transmitted infections

Nick Duffy September 15, 2016

There have been calls for increased focus on STI prevention and education, as a report finds that under-24s now account for one third of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).

A report released by Public Health England (PHE) today shows that in London alone, STIs are booming among young people account for a third of STIs.

In 2015 those aged 15 to 24 living in the capital made up 36% of all new STI diagnoses; with gonorrhoea, chlamydia, genital warts, genital herpes and syphilis all being diagnosed.

From 2011 to 2015, new diagnoses of syphilis and gonorrhoea in 15 to 24 year olds in London increased by 128% and 61% respectively.

Genital herpes also rose by 4%. Overall the number of new STIs fell from 44,283 in 2011 to 42,457 (4%) in 2015.

Though rates of Chlamydia diagnoses has fallen, this is likely because less people are getting tested.

A spokesperson for Mayor of London Sadiq Khan told PinkNews: “The Mayor has made improving the sexual health of young Londoners a key priority and he is concerned that Londoners continue to be disproportionately affected by Sexually Transmitted Infections.

“He would encourage all young Londoners to get regular checks so that rates of infection can be decreased in the capital.”

The news comes as a separate study from the Family Planning Association found a critical lack of sex education among young people.

Among sexually active 16-24 year olds, 47% have never had an STI test, while 28% find  buying condoms “embarrassing”.

Only one-third (32%) said they learnt how to confidently talk to a partner about using condoms during SRE lessons.

Dr Yvonne Doyle, regional director for PHE London, said: “These figures show that too many young people in London are continuing to have unsafe sex, putting themselves at unnecessary risk of contracting STIs.

“Young Londoners are one of the groups we know are at increased risk of experiencing poor sexual health, along with men who have sex with men (MSM) and black ethnic minorities.

“Young people tend to have more sexual partners and are more likely to have unsafe sex. These factors mean they are at increased risk of contracting STIs and becoming re-infected.

“Working closely with young Londoners and other at risk groups is vital to deliver effective public health interventions and improve their sexual health outcomes.”

PHE called for prevention to “focus on groups at highest risk, including young adults, men who have sex with men and black ethnic minorities”.

It adds: “Men who have sex with men should test annually for HIV and STIs and every 3 months if having condomless sex with new or casual partners”

 

Dr Doyle added: “The survey results published today by FPA looking at the attitudes of 16-24 year olds provides excellent insight into their behaviour and potential barriers for them engaging with sexual health services.

“Young people reported being more worried about going for a sexual health check, with both embarrassment and the fear of people finding out being of particular concern. In London we have excellent, confidential, open access sexual health services which provide free provision of contraception and STI testing and treatment. These services also provide notification for the sexual partners of those diagnosed with an STI, which may be another concern for people diagnosed with an STI.”

FPA’s Chief Executive, Natika H Halil, said: “It is really important that young people are given the information and support they need, especially as our survey showed that they are more likely than older age groups to feel embarrassed or worry about their sexual health.

“One huge problem is we still don’t have statutory sex and relationships education, which means many young people are not given the opportunity to develop skills which can help them safely navigate sexual relationships.

“Sexual Health Week is all about raising awareness so that young people can make informed choices about their sexual health and wellbeing, and also signposting the many places that they can get help when they need it.”

Dr Patrick French, a sexual health specialist and genitourinary medicine consultant at The Mortimer Market Centre, Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Today’s report highlights that too many young people in London continue to be disproportionately affected by STIs.

“To reduce infections among this at-risk group access to good quality preventative, testing and treatment services is vital. They must also be welcoming and open to overcome any worries or embarrassment young age people might have about going to clinic.

“I still regularly see young people in clinic with newly diagnosed STIs, who struggled to find the right service for testing and treatment. Developing and strengthening easily accessible sexual health services for young people in London must be a priority.”

 

More: condom, ed, Gay, LGBT, London, Sex, sex ed, SRE

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