STIs are definitely on the rise; this may seem alarming considering the continuous developments in contraceptive techniques and family planning. So what are STIs? They’re sexually transmitted diseases and infections that are passed from one person to another. These include chlamydia, herpes, gonorrhoea, syphilis, genital herpes, scabies, public lice, hepatitis and HIV.
Nottingham has been named one of the highest regions of the UK for STIs. Not surprisingly, with the pool of students in the area; University of Nottingham, Nottingham Trent, Loughborough and Leicester with students being in the 15-24 age range are more at risk of STIs.
Part of the problem is that sexual education is not being appropriately displayed to children.
The safe sex message just isn’t getting across. As well as a lack of knowledge it has been reported that younger people lack the self-esteem to implement safer sex.
It is thought that alcohol plays a part in spreading STIs; alcohol reduces inhibitions and often causes sense to go out the window. Interestingly, a study found young adults were 7 times more likely to have unprotected sex under the influence of alcohol.
The main problem with STIs is that most of them are asymptomatic; symptoms are often missed or people don’t feel the need get a consultation. This suggests there is a need for a screening process. Currently the NHS is offering free chlamydia screening for under 25’s as this is the most common STI in the UK; this is an easy, non-invasive way of testing a large proportion of the targeted population. The website has a ‘hide’ button so people will feel more at ease researching about this STI. There is even a ‘fancy a quickie’ campaign where you can request a test online. As an incentive they are offering free cinema tickets in exchange for taking a chlamydia test! (And there’s no reason not to!)
The problem with testing for STIs in young people is that there is still a lot of stigma that comes with the word ‘STI’.
People are worried to tell anyone or ask for help and are often ashamed or embarrassed to attend for example, a GUM clinic.
Just like any other medical condition if you don’t get tested you can’t get treated. It is really important that young people are aware of the knock on effects of unsafe sex; what some people put down to as ‘just a drunken mistake’ can often turn into a much bigger problem. STIs can cause infertility, some cancers and will more than likely reoccur. If left untreated, future sexual partners will be at risk too.
Worryingly gonorrhoea is becoming difficult to treat due to the development of a resistance to the antibiotic gonococcal fluoroquinolone. If gonorrhoea also develops a resistance to the other drug cephalosporin, there may be a day when patients showing symptoms of burning, swelling, discharge and itching can’t be treated. (Ouch!)
Despite the high rates of STIs being recorded in Nottingham, this data could partly be because of the increase in testing that is being done. Therefore we are able to pick up infections that could have been hidden otherwise. Saying that, there is no doubt that risky behaviour still plays a part.
Image courtesy of Renee Rendler-Kaplan via Flickr