Page last updated at 23:09 GMT, Sunday, 7 September 2008 00:09 UK

'Dozens' of under-16s have STIs

By Eleanor Bradford
Health correspondent, BBC Scotland

Eleanor Bradford speaks to "Sophie" and "Jasmine" about their sexual history

A total of 281 Scottish children under 16 contracted a sexually transmitted infection (STI) last year, according to new figures obtained by BBC Scotland.

Figures from the Information Services Division show 181 youngsters tested positive for chlamydia.

A total of 62 were diagnosed with genital warts, 13 contracted herpes and 10 picked up gonorrhoea.

STI rates have rocketed in recent years with one in seven young women and one in 10 young men contracting chlamydia.

It is known as the "silent infection", as it often shows no symptoms, but if left untreated can cause infertility.

To avoid identifying individual children, the statistics division did not publish figures concerning fewer than four people.

I felt used and hurt afterwards
'Sophie'

The Sandyford Initiative provides sexual and reproductive health services for people in the Glasgow area.

At the clinic in Paisley, Renfrewshire, two 14-year-old girls told BBC Scotland that most of their friends were in sexual relationships.

Sophie* said she had already had sex.

"I met him at a party. He said if you love me you'd do it," she said.

"I believed him when he said that. So I did.

"And he dumped me the next day. I felt used and hurt afterwards."

Jasmine* said she was still a virgin, but in the past when she has refused to have sex with a boy he complained that she was "tight".

ACUTE SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED INFECTIONS - 2007

STIs U-16 16 17 18
Infectious syphilis * * * *
Gonorrhoea 10 14 35 66
Chlamydia 181 363 556 799
Genital herpes, first episode 13 16 40 68
Genital warts, first episode 62 160 316 465
NSGI (non-chlamydial) 11 20 36 90
Trichomoniasis * * * *
HIV infection * * * *
Other acute STI * 14 25 50
* values between 0-4 have not been displayed
Source: STISS

NHS Dumfries and Galloway has an unusual way of tackling rising rates of sexual infections in young people.

It is running courses to teach parents how to talk to their children about sex and relationships.

Evidence suggests that young people who talk to their parents in an open and non-judgemental way were more likely to delay their first sexual experiences and more likely to use contraception when they do have sex.

Course tutor Laura Fairbairn said: "Young people want to hear about sex and relationships from the people they know the most, and that's their parents.

"We're not talking about going into lots of detail but maybe answering the basic questions like, 'Mummy, how did you get a baby in your tummy?' without telling them a fairy story about storks for example."

'Awkward questions'

All of the parents who have just completed the course were enthusiastic.

"My boys are at an age where they really want to know a lot more information, and I feel I've got the confidence to tell them without getting embarrassed," said mother-of-two Vicky Leigh.

Her friend, Laura Florence, added: "I get all the awkward questions like 'Where do I come from?'

"I've learned from this course how to approach my three-year-old with the right information."

Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has confirmed plans to increase the number of drop-in clinics in remote and rural areas where youngsters can get advice on sexual health issues.

'School population'

There are already a number of schools where youngsters can get help and advice, along with free condoms and pregnancy tests.

However, no schools provide youngsters with the morning-after pill, and a government spokeswoman said there were no plans to change this.

"We will be aiming to increase the number of young people's 'drop-in' services where high-quality healthcare can be provided alongside comprehensive sex and relationships education and information," she said.

"We would anticipate that these services would be available to the whole school population, although this would be determined by local consultation."

* Names have been changed to protect identities.

This is the first of a series of special reports on sexual health in Scotland. You can see more on Reporting Scotland at 1830 BST on BBC One Scotland, or listen to Good Morning Scotland on BBC Radio Scotland from 0600 BST.


SEE ALSO
Young people speak about sex
07 Sep 08 |  North East/N Isles
Health quiz: Chlamydia
07 Sep 08 |  Scotland
Parents helped to talk about sex
20 Aug 08 |  South of Scotland
Warning over HIV 'ignorance' risk
17 Jan 08 |  Scotland
Large rise in sex infection cases
18 Jul 07 |  Scotland
Sexual health treatment 'in days'
17 Jul 07 |  Scotland

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