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The BBC's Graham Satchell
"Getting the message through to young people is crucial"
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Wednesday, 16 August, 2000, 17:54 GMT 18:54 UK
11-year-olds treated for sex diseases
Teenagers are having sex earlier
Children as young as 11 are being treated for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), according to official figures.

Statistics published by the NHS show that the number of under-16s being treated for STDs has increased dramatically in recent years.

Figures from Trent NHS Region reveal that the number of young people being treated for gonorrhoea in Nottingham is twice the national average.

Dr Richard Slack, consultant in communicable diseases for Nottingham Health Authority, said the vast majority of young sufferers were participating in active sexual relationships and were not the victims of abuse or attack.

"Nottingham has a large number of students and a vibrant nightlife - there is a down side to that," he said.

The age of sexual activity drops by about five years with every generation

Dr Richard Slack, Nottingham Health Authority

"Alcohol often means people may not be as careful as they should be."

In one Nottingham clinic every teenager coming in for family planning advice has been tested for chlamydia.

In another clinic, children as young as 11 and 12 have been treated for sexually transmitted diseases.

"We found that 12% of all girls, under the age of 20, were testing positive," said Dr Slack.

"Across the national population we would expect something like 3% to 4%."

Officials are now planning to pump more resources into education to inform young people about the risks of unprotected sex.

Dr Slack said it was important children are educated about sex while they are still at school.

But he added: "Research has shown that the age of sexual activity drops by about five years with every generation. So 30 years ago the average age for first having sex was 20 or 21, that is now 14 or 15 especially for girls."

A spokesman for the Department of Health said the Trent health region, which includes Nottingham, had the highest recorded rates of chlamydia along with South West Thames Region.

But he added that the "silent" nature of the infection meant there were probably many more undetected cases.

And he added: "Nottingham has about twice the average number of cases of gonorrhoea at 120 per 100,000 as compared to 50 per 100,000."

The figures are higher than similar cities such as Liverpool, Birmingham, Leeds and Sheffield.

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