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Under 25s 'particularly vulnerable' to STIs


Young adults under the age of 25 are responsible for the majority of nearly half a million new cases of sexually transmitted infections in the UK in 2009.

A total of 482,696 cases were reported in sexual health clinics last year, which was increase of 12,000 from 2008.

The Health Protection Agency, which collected the figures, said young women are “particularly vulnerable” and frequently “lack the skills and confidence to negotiate safer sex”.

Under-25s accounted for two-thirds of new STI cases in women, including 73% of new cases of gonorrhoea in women and 66% of new cases of genital warts.

A huge 88% of new cases of chlamydia - the most common STI in the UK - in women were discovered in the same age group.

There was a 7% increase in chlamydia cases among both sexes across all age groups between 2008 and 2009, while cases of gonorrhoea were up 6%.

Genital herpes cases increases by 5% while genital warts cases stabilised with a 0.3% drop. Syphilis cases fell by 1%.

While more chlamydia testing in the community - and more sensitive tests for other STIs - accounted for much of the rise, the HPA said it was clear many people were still having unsafe sex.

Young adults and gay men are the groups most worrying the HPA.

Re-infection is also an issue, with at least 11% of 16 to 19-year-old women in England becoming re-infected with an STI within one year of being treated for a previous one.

The same is true for young men, with 12% of 16 to 19-year-olds becoming re-infected within one year.

Head of the HPA’s STI section Dr Gwenda Hughes 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.”

Marie Stopes International’s contraception and sexual health specialist Helen Jenkins said: “We are extremely concerned about the reported rise in the rate of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the UK. It is clear that some young people are not fully aware of the prevalence of STIs and how they can protect themselves against getting one.

“We fear that STI rates may continue to rise, particularly among young people, without increased access to comprehensive sex and relationships education in all British schools.

“Many teachers tell us that they don’t have the confidence or information to teach sex and relationships education effectively, despite knowing that many of their students are sexually active.”


Readers' comments (5)

  • I think specialist nurses should be brought into schools to effectively address the teaching of this subect, a teacher cannot be expected to know all the implications of the sexually transmitted diseases associated with unprotected sex.

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  • I agree with anonymous 25-Aug 7:40pm. Sex & relationship education is being delivered effectively in some schools by specialist nurses, but it needs to be available in all schools. A piecemeal approach is not good enough.

    I was one of those specialist nurses until being unlawfully suspended in 2002.

    My manager had what can only be described as a pathological hatred for me. The fact that that I was good at my work increased that hatred out of all proportion.

    Senior managers, HR and my union poodle rubber stamped what she wanted ( to hound me out of my post). This is happening on a large scale in nursing. So much so that the organizaion CAUSE was created, see

    Never mind I was given a large sum of money to keep my mouth shut ( money that would be better spent on (sex & relationship education).

    So, there is more to the problem than meets the eye. Not just funding. It has more to with incompetent,corrupt managers squandering precious funds.

    Kathleen White (Edinburgh)

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  • i agree and disagree with both of the above. im just coming to the end of my specialist community public health nursing post grad dip course for school nursing. however there are no jobs. all jobs are frozen. i dont have a job as a SCPHN or school nurse when i finish in 8 days time. I do agree that we should go into schools more a provide more teaching on sex ed, as its not the teachers who cant teach it, its the fact that they dont want to teach it. But we do have to work collaborativly. so teachers are just as much to blame for this. You also have to look your case load at present, because as we are all aware child protection cases have to take a priority. and if they are not replacing staff who are leaving at the moment, what else are we meant to do if there is no money to recruit?

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  • just to add to the above, the main responsibility for delivering sex ed remians with the parents to educate their children as well. after all they brought them into the world and brought them up to be who they are now! People just look for scape goats all the time instead of looking at their own parenting skills.

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  • I would suggest we need to be asking patients if they are sexually active and offering STI testing on admission. I work in paediatrics and only a fool can deny that there are large numbers of children participating in unsafe [and illegal] sexual relationships. If we wait for them to become adults infection may have caused sterility.

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