- Sexually transmitted infections (STI) in the UK have
more than doubled in the last five years, despite greater condom use,
to a national survey of sexual attitudes and lifestyles published on
- The Medical Research Council's survey of 11,000 people
aged 16 to 44 found one in 10 adults has had an STI. Chlamydia was the
most common, especially in women in England, where it is the main cause
- The authors suggest the surprising rise in infections
is due to people having more sexual partners and up to a quarter of people
not using condoms correctly. The latter factor may explain why a rise still
occurred despite condom use being especially high among people who had
a large number of partners.
- One of the report's authors, Anne Johnson from University
College London, said: "People are marrying later and so having a
number of partners. Our findings show more homosexual activity, more people
paying for sex and more oral and anal sex."
- She added: "We must be realistic about the sexual
practice in our society and not bury our heads in the sand."
- Multiple Partners
- Important factors influencing an individual's sexual
practices were age, gender and where they lived. For example, the incidence
of chlamydia - about three per cent - was fairly even throughout the UK.
By contrast, gonorrhoea was especially high in cities.
- "Gonorrhoea is a very fragile organism and requires
a high level of partner change for it to spread," explains another
author Kevin Fenton, from University College London and the UK Public
Laboratory. Cities such as London have high levels of partner change as
the result of a large gay community and of prostitution - one in 11 men
has paid for sex in London.
- Fenton said the rise in STIs reflects a global increase
caused in part by a phenomenon known as "safe-sex fatigue", where
people become oblivious to health messages.
- This is exacerbated by the general increase in travel,
which results in new strains being transmitted around the globe.
year we see a surge in STIs after the summer when people return from
Fenton told New Scientist.
- But Fenton said UK immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa,
where STIs are particularly prevalent, are unlikely to be adding to
- they were more than twice as likely to use condoms during sex.
- Targeting Men
- The report's authors agree that the best way of reducing
STI transmission is through better education and wider screening,
- "Sexual health must now move beyond GUM clinics
to other settings like primary care. Every GP should be able to take a
sexual history and demonstrate how to use a condom," says
- "The excuse that men are a hard to reach group,
despite making up half of the population, must be challenged," he
- Journal references:
The Lancet (vol 358, p 1828, 1835, 1843, 1851)
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