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Last Updated: Monday, 17 December 2007, 15:06 GMT
Taxis 'should give out condoms'
Condoms
Sexual transmitted infections have been rising in recent years
Free condoms should be given away in pubs, clubs and taxis to reduce the levels of unwanted pregnancies and sex infections, experts say.

Research by the University of Southampton found strong links between binge drinking and unsafe sex.

The poll of 520 people attending sexual health clinics found 76% said they had unprotected sex due to drinking.

And those with sex infections drank 40% more on average, the International Journal of STD and Aids reported.

In total, only a sixth of those quizzed said they always had safe sex with a new partner.

Widening access in this way is a good idea, but it also needs to be twinned with giving people the confidence to say no to sex and waiting
Brook spokeswoman

It comes as sexual infection diagnoses have been almost continually rising since the 1990s, with the highest increases in recent years being seen in the 16 to 24 age group.

Last year there was a 2% rise in total cases to 376,508 in England.

Researchers said the government needed to do more to tackle the association between drinking and unsafe sex.

Linda Tucker, one of the authors of the report, said: "The link between sexual risk and drinking too much alcohol is not the most original idea in the world, but we now have clear scientific evidence of the relationship.

"The government needs to reflect this link both in their sexual health and alcohol strategy - which at present seems not to link alcohol and sexual risk behaviour.

"Politicians need to tackle the issue of cheap booze and to have properly funded early intervention and treatment programmes in place."

Confidence

Journal editor Professor Wallace Dinsmore said: "The young people interviewed in this study frequently said that better access to condoms at the time and place they were needed would have enabled them to practise safer sex.

"Young people can get free condoms from their GPs, family planning and GU [sexual health] clinics but it might make more sense to give condoms away in pubs, clubs and taxis."

A spokeswoman for the sexual health charity Brook said handing out free condoms had been tested in several areas.

She added: "Widening access in this way is a good idea, but it also needs to be twinned with giving people the confidence to say no to sex and waiting."

A Department of Health spokesperson said said tackling sexual health and binge drinking were "priority issues".

And while refusing to get drawn on free condoms in taxis, pubs and clubs, the spokeswoman said the government was in talks with industry about increasing access.



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