All sexually active young people should be screened for chlamydia annually and every time they change their sexual partner, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has advised.
Figures released by the HPA show a 6% jump in the number of new sexually transmitted infections (STIs) diagnosed in 2007 compared to 2006.
Most of the burden continues to fall on young people aged 16 to 24 years. While just one in eight of the population is in this age group, this group accounts for around half of all newly diagnosed STIs in the UK; 65% of all chlamydia, 55% of all genital warts and 50% of gonorrhoea diagnosed in GUM clinics.
Professor Peter Borriello, director of the HPA’s centre for infections, said part of the rise in the number of infections could be attributed to the 10% increase in the number of screening tests carried out in 2007.
“This increase in testing, together with the decrease we have seen in waiting times for GUM services, ensuring prompt treatment of infections, will help to reduce risk of transmission and the development of complications. If sustained this could have a significant impact on the control of sexually transmitted infections.
However, he added: “We cannot rely on prompt diagnosis and treatment alone – a shift in behaviour is the only way that we will bring down this continued increase in infections.
“It is crucial that young people continue to be exposed to messages about safe sex, including condom wearing, and the importance of getting checked out at their nearest GUM clinic if they have had unprotected sex with a new partner.”