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UK: report shows young people most affected by STIs

Thursday, 6 June, 2013

New data indicates sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are continuing to increase in the UK, with a reported 5% rise of new infections in 2012. It is thought this increase is mostly due to improved data collection, according to a recently published report by Public Health England (PHE). Significantly enhanced methods and screenings for STIs, such as Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea, has meant the UK is seeing the diagnosis and treatment of “more infections that ever before”.  Dr Gwenda Hughes, who heads STI surveillance at PHE, went on to emphasis the need for continued efforts to endure these trends – “on-going investment in programmes to increase sexual health awareness, condom use and testing, particularly for groups at most risk, is vital”.

Young people, under the age of 25, remain the most affected group by STIs. The report consequently encourages sexually active young people to screen for HIV and other STIs on at least an annual basis, and on a three-month basis if changing sexual partners regularly. It can be especially important to regularly test for STIs such as HIV for early identification and treatment, as it can often be asymptomatic.

The report highlighted how “men who have sex with men continue to experience high rates of STIs and remain a priority for targeted HIV and STI prevention and health promotion work”. Analysis also showed black ethnic communities to be disproportionally affected by HIV and STIs. A previous report by PHE found rates of HIV to be 3.7 percent and 0.4 percent among black African and black Caribbean communities in the UK, respectively, and black Africans to account for 69 percent of all new HIV infections in the UK. The prevalence among the white population stood at 0.09 percent at in 2008.

The report finished off by placing education as the “cornerstone of STI prevention” as it can be a tool to inform people on ways to adopt safer sexual behaviours that will improve their own, and their wider communities sexual health.