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Monday, 31 July, 2000, 13:37 GMT 14:37 UK
Sex diseases 'rising in the young'
School children
Earlier sex education could reduce STI rates say family planning officials
Rates of sexually transmitted infections among young people have increased sharply in the past year, according to official figures.

Statistics from the Public Health Laboratory Service show that cases of gonorrhoea rose by 25% in 1999 while there were 16% more cases of genital chlamydia.

However, the increases were biggest among the teenagers.

Between 1998 and 1999, cases of gonorrhoea rose by almost 40% among teenage boys and by almost a quarter in teenage girls.

Rates of chlamydia increased by a quarter among boys and by a fifth among girls aged between 16 and 19 years.

We cannot afford to be complacent about safer sex

Dr Kevin Fenton, PHLS


Public health doctors have warned that the figures suggest that many youngster are becoming complacent about safe sex and are risking infertility and other problems.

Dr Kevin Fenton, of the PHLS Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre, described the figures as worrying.

"These trends are worrying, and clearly indicated that safer sex is not being maintained.

"We cannot afford to be complacent about safer sex, and it is vital that prevention messages are delivered to those at risk."

He said many young people are unaware of the risks of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

"Young people are particularly vulnerable, as many are unaware of STIs and their symptoms and this may place them at increased risk of acquiring infections.

"The situation is further compounded as young people are often unaware of available sexual health services or feel intimidated about attending them."

He added: "These infections should not be taken lightly. Many infections do not result in any immediate symptoms, and often pass unnoticed.

Comprehensive sex education from an early age would ensure that young people acquire the knowledge they need

Anne Weyman, FPA

"If left untreated, they can go on to cause serious long term complications - including pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility or ectopic pregnancy."

Anne Weyman, chief executive of the Family Planning Association, called for sex education to be taught to children earlier.

"The continuing rise in sexually transmitted infections indicates that young people in particular are not getting the information and services they need to protect their sexual health.

"Comprehensive sex education from an early age would ensure that young people acquire the knowledge they need to protect themselves and develop the skills necessary to negotiate relationships, including the use of condoms."

A spokesman for the anti-abortion charity Life said: "We have been warning against this for some time.

"Since the advent of the permissive society and the gradual introduction of more so-called choice in contraception, the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases has risen.

"Maybe instead of advocating more choice, we ought to think about encouraging more abstinence, waiting longer and choosing one's partner more carefully."

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