Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are diseases that can be transmitted through unprotected sex. Over the past decade, there has been an increase in STI diagnosis in England. This is thought to be because of the rapid increase in sexual health screening and chlamydia tests, the increasing use of more sensitive diagnostic tests for gonorrhoea and genital herpes; as well as increased transmission through unsafe sexual behaviour, especially among men who have sex with men (MSM). Overall however, between 2009 and 2010, rates of diagnosis of acute STIs declined in 69% of Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) in England. During the period 2008-2010 numbers of new STI diagnoses in England fell by 1% with the greatest decline in young adults, however they rose again by 2% in 2011. In 2010, new diagnoses of genital Chlamydia did not rise, despite an increase in the number of tests performed.
The spread of infection varies across age groups and locations. As STIs are transmitted by sexual contact, infections can be seen to cluster alongside different social groupings. Young people under the age of 25 have the highest rates of STIs, although with changes in family structures and increased divorce, diagnosis in the older population has also been raised as a concern. It is argued that the impact of poor sexual health remains greatest in young heterosexual adults and in men who have sex with men. Health promotion and education remain the cornerstones of STI and HIV prevention through improving public awareness of STIs and HIV and encouraging safer sexual behaviour such as consistent condom use for penetrative practices, or increases in practices which do not spread STIs.
95. Health Protection Agency, http://www.hpa.org.uk/NewsCentre/NationalPressReleases/2011PressReleases/110615STIsdeclinefirsttimein10yrs
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