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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 November 2005, 09:41 GMT
Screening boosts chlamydia checks
Chlamydia cells
People with chlamydia may not have any symptoms
The extension of a screening programme for the "silent" sex infection chlamydia has seen more than three times the people checked.

In its first year the programme, launched in 2003, screened around 18,000 young men and women.

But 60,698 were tested across England in the second year of the National Chlamydia Screening Programme.

Chlamydia - the most common sexually transmitted infection - is often symptomless but can cause infertility.

These are cases which would otherwise have gone unrecognised, with all the potential consequences for the future health and fertility
Nick Partridge, Terrence Higgins Trust

Out of over 78,000 people so far screened for chlamydia, more than 8,000 tested positive for the infection.

The screening programme now covers a quarter of all primary care trusts in England but is being extended to cover the whole country.

The Department of Health said it was well ahead of the target of having all chlamydia screening offices up and offering full coverage by 2007.

The scheme targets under-25s, who may otherwise go unchecked.

High street tests

Speaking at the NCSP conference in central London, Public Health Minister Caroline Flint said: "It's great news that we're reaching so many young men and women - most of whom would have been missed had it not been for this world leading chlamydia screening programme.

"We have made it clear that tackling the top five sexually transmitted infections is a priority for government - especially chlamydia which affects one in 10 sexually active women and can lead to infertility.

"That is why we are making both screening and testing services more accessible for the under-25s, offering them in places outside traditional health care settings such as universities, pharmacies and armed forces bases."

The Boots chain of chemist is also set to launch a free chlamydia screening service across London from Monday.

It is part of a government-funded pilot to make it easier for young people to access testing services.

The NCSP's annual report showed 49% of screening took place in contraceptive clinics, 21% in young people's clinics, 10% in general practice and the rest in settings such as colleges and prisons.

Dr Jan Clarke, chair of the National Chlamydia Screening Steering Group, said: "The huge increase in screening volumes this year is a reflection of the tremendous commitment and hard work of these pioneering local teams."

Nick Partridge, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: "Eight thousand people now know that they have chlamydia and can be treated for it.

"These are cases which would otherwise have gone unrecognised, with all the potential consequences for the future health and fertility.

"These figures also show the programme is very acceptable to young people."

But he said the NHS still needed to put a substantial amount of money into services to detect and treat all sexually transmitted infections."

Clare Brown, Chief Executive of Infertility Network UK said: "We believe screening programme will also be cost effective in the long term and might prevent many hundreds of couples each year having to seek fertility treatment in order to conceive."

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