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Almost half of young people never use a condom with a new partner

PHE wants more under 25s to be protected to stop the spread of STIs

Mark Gould

Friday, 15 December 2017

Almost half of 16-24-year-olds have never used a condom with a new partner and one in 10 of them had never even used one, according to a poll to launch a new campaign to encourage young people to take more responsibility for their sexual health.

The YouGov poll, conducted as part of Public Health England’s new ‘Protect Against STIs’ campaign, spoke to more than 2,000 young people about their sexual health.

It found that most felt that sex was better without a condom and that half the people who admitted to not using a condom had done so when drunk.

Public Health England (PHE) wants more young people to use condoms to stop the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as syphilis and gonorrhoea.

The survey also found that one in three people (35%) think carrying condoms gives the impression that you sleep around.

It also revealed that sexual health is a challenging topic for young adults to discuss, as 56% of men and 43% of women said that it is difficult to talk about STIs with friends. Furthermore, 58% said that if they had an STI they would find it difficult to talk to their sexual partner about it.

Nearly six in 10 of all chlamydia and gonorrhoea diagnoses in 2016 were in people aged 15 to 24. In 2016, there were over 141,000 chlamydia and gonorrhoea diagnoses in people aged between 15 and 24 in England and almost six in 10 (59%) of all those diagnosed with an STI were among this age group.

The new campaign features personal stories from young people talking about contracting an STI and why they did not use protection. It aims to raise awareness of the serious consequences of STIs, which can cause infertility and pelvic inflammatory disease.

Gonorrhoea is a particular concern because it is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics and may become untreatable in the future. The campaign will be highlighting the increased likelihood of contracting an STI if having sex without a condom and that many STIs are symptomless, including seven in 10 cases of chlamydia.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said the poll findings were "really alarming" and highlight the genuine need for better access to good, sensible, sexual health education for everyone – including contraception and the potentially terrible impact of STIs.

Prof Stokes-Lampard said the college was pleased that PHE was tackling the issue "head on". “The figures prove that we need urgent investment in sexual and reproductive health services in the community, both to protect the health of young people and to ensure progress that has been made over recent years is not reversed.

“Since 1998, the teen pregnancy rate in England and Wales has halved, but the College is greatly concerned rates of teenage pregnancy and transmission of sexually transmitted diseases will rise unless more is done to reduce the barriers patients face to accessing contraceptives and other sexual health services," she insisted.

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