Page last updated at 12:00 GMT, Tuesday, 15 July 2008 13:00 UK

Sex infections in young up again

By Nick Triggle
Health reporter, BBC News

Holding hands
Young people have been warned to take greater care

Sex infections continue to rise with experts issuing a stark warning over the behaviour of young people.

There was a 6% rise in sex infections in the UK in 2007 compared to 2006, but this comes at a time when the numbers being tested is rising rapidly.

Half of the total were in people aged 16-24, despite the fact they represent just one in eight of the population, the Health Protection Agency said.

The HPA said youngsters needed to be tested regularly, and take more care.

Professor Peter Borriello, director of the HPA's Centre for Infections, said: "It is increasingly the case that many young people see a casual shag as part of the territory, it is part of life."

Young people still aren't getting the education and the services they need to manage their health and relationships
Lisa Power, of the Terrence Higgins Trust

But he added: "Increasingly a shag now stands for syphilis, herpes, anal warts and gonorrhoea."

He said the solution was more regular screening and for young people to take more responsibility for themselves.

Across all age groups 397,990 new STIs were diagnosed in UK sexual health clinics in 2007 - an increase from 375,843 in 2006.

The 16-24-year-old age group accounted for 65% of all new chlamydia cases diagnosed in 2007, 55% of genital warts and 50% of gonorrhoea.

But to put this in context just over 1% of this age group tested positive for chalmydia, which is the most common type of infection.

Overall chlamydia and genital warts were up 7%, while herpes increased by 20% - although this was partly put down to a better testing technique. Both gonorrhoea and syphilis fell slightly.

More tests

However, some of the rises have been attributed to more people being tested.

A national chlamydia screening programme has been in the process of being rolled out since 2003.

And overall the number of screens has risen by 10% in the past year and by 61% since 2003.

Lisa Power, of the Terrence Higgins Trust, acknowledged better testing was playing a key role.

But she added: "Young people still aren't getting the education and the services they need to manage their health and relationships."

The opposition parties both said the government had been complacent.

Shadow health minister Anne Milton said the figures showed the "cost of failure", while the Lib Dem's Norman Lamb linked them to cuts in public health budgets.

But health minister Dawn Primarolo said while the figures were a concern, it was important to remember there had been an increase in screening.

"That means more people are being screened and therefore detected."


Diagnoses through Genito-Urinary Medicine clinics

  2006 new episodes 2007 new episodes Change 2007 new episodes (16-24 yrs) Prop among 16-24 yrs (as % of all new diagnoses)
Chlamydia 113,783 121,986 7% 79,557 65%
Gonorrhoea 18,898 18,710 -1% 9,410 50%
Syphilis 2,684 2,680 -0.15% 447 17%
Herpes 21,797 26,062 20% 11,252 43%
Genital warts 83,624 89,838 7% 49,250 55%
All new STIs* 375,843 397,990 6% N/A  

* Includes infections not in above table

'Emotions' urged in sex education
05 May 08 |  Education

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