British Having Unsafe Sex, STD Rate Rising
British experts are blaming "complacency over safe sex" for "soaring" STD infection rates, particularly in young women and gay men, BBC News reports. According to government statistics, STD diagnoses have hit a "10-year high" with gonorrhea and chlamydia rates climbing "dramatically" in the last five years. Statistics from the Public Health Laboratory Service show that diagnoses of chlamydia and gonorrhea have risen 77% and 57% respectively. Officials also have seen a 56% rise in cases of syphilis and a 22% increase in genital warts. In addition to complacency, experts blamed the government's "fail[ure]" to educate teenagers about the risks of STDs for the increases. The government's chief adviser on sexual health matters, Michael Adler, said that a new national sexual health strategy is "currently being drawn up." Many are calling for renewed emphasis on abstinence. Dr. Trevor Stammers, writing in the British Medical Journal, said that research indicates early sexual activity leads to "regret" and carries an "increased risk of depression and suicide." He also said that abstinence-based programs in the United States have led to a "sharp reduction in the number of pregnancies." He argued that increased availability of contraception and explicit sex education had been tried and proven "inadequate." But Dr. Robert Ingham of the Center for Sexual Health Research at the University of Southampton argued in favor of "greater openness," saying that abstinence-based initiatives do not take "intense" peer pressure into account. He added that such programs run the risk of "alien[ating]" teenagers further from adults, making them less likely to take advantage of STD prevention services (BBC News, 12/15).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.