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Monday, 17 September, 2001, 14:54 GMT 15:54 UK
Sex disease hits one in 10
Urine was tested for signs of chlamydia
Urine was tested for signs of chlamydia
Almost one in 10 women under 25 are infected with potentially-damaging chlamydia, a study has shown.

Women in Portsmouth and the Wirral in north west England were offered a test for the infection at genito-urinary clinics and family planning services.

The test was even offered at GP practices - even if women were not there because of a sexually transmitted disease.

Experts who organised the pilot say the one in 10 figure is high, but say it shows a "realistic" picture of the level of infection.

This "opportunistic" screening was a pilot study, jointly run by the Department of Health and the Public Health Laboratory Service.

The preliminary results from the study are striking

Dr Jeanne Pimenta, PHLS
Chlamydia is a "silent" disease. Many women who have it do not show any symptoms.

Left unchecked, it can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and even ultimately infertility.

A strategy for treating sexual health, published by the government in July, set out proposals for a targeted screening programme for chlamydia.

The rate of chlamydia infection is on the increase.

Figures from the PHLS show the number of new diagnoses rose from 53,221 in 1999 to 62,565 in 2000 - an 18% rise.

Urine test

The first results from the pilot were presented to the PHLS's annual scientific conference in Warwick on Monday

In the one-year study, which ended in August 2000, over 18,000 sexually active women between 16 and 25 were offered testing.

A simple urine test was carried out.

It was found over 9% had a chlamydia infection.

Study co-ordinator Dr Jeanne Pimenta, from the PHLS, said: "The preliminary results from the study are striking."

She added that it was encouraging so many women were happy to take the test.

Over 70% took up the offer in most of the settings in which it was offered.

That means a widely available screening programme should be able to identify a large number of the women infected.

Dr Pimenta said: "There was a lot of publicity about the availability of screening, so people were presenting themselves.

"But I think one in 10 is a realistic figure."

Safe sex message

She said it was important people received the message that the best way to prevent the spread of the chlamydia infection was to practice safe sex.

"We need to be encouraging people to practise safe sex. We need to get that message to young people.

She added: "We need to get away from the stigma associated with sexually transmitted infections."

See also:

27 Jul 01 | Health
Fight steps up on sexual diseases
14 Feb 01 | Health
Chlamydia study launched
06 Feb 01 | Health
Chlamydia test 'every six months'
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