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Sexual Health – Do we know enough?

Posted in Sexual Health 18 Sep, 2013

This week sees the emergence of Sexual Health Week. Launched by the FPA (family planning association) and Brook, the annual campaign aims to keep the UK public informed about sexually transmitted infections, sexual health and contraceptive services. This year the theme in particular focuses on XES 'We Can't Go Backwards.' But is this message too little too late? Recent statistics have worryingly shown a rise in the number of STIs diagnosed in young people.

Figures released last year by PHE (Public Health England) found a 5% rise in STI diagnoses, almost half of which were chlamydia, with gonorrhoea following closely behind. It also showed that the majority of people presumably unaware they had an STI, fail to get treatment. Unlike other sexually transmitted infections like genital warts, chlamydia and gonorrhoea may not produce any symptoms. In many cases if symptoms do occur, they are often similar to less serious health conditions.

Chlamydia

Chlamydia is passed through unprotected vaginal, anal and oral sex. It is estimated that 70 -80% of women and 25- 50% of men do not experience any visible symptoms. If you do experience symptoms they may include:

Women Men
Cystitis, Pain in the testicles
Lower abdominal pain White cloudy discharge from the tip of the penis
Pain during sex Pain when passing urine
Pain when passing urine Mild irritation at the tip of the penis
Unusual vaginal discharge
Unexplained bleeding between periods

Gonorrhoea

Gonorrhea is passed through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex. Like Chlamydia, 50% of women and 10% of men do not know they have the bacterial STI due to the lack of symptoms. Possible symptoms experienced by men and women can include:

Women Men
Vaginal bleeding after sex Unusual penile discharge
Bleeding between periods Pain when passing urine
Unusual heavy periods Pain and swelling in the testicles
Unusual vaginal discharge Pain the lower abdomen

Health Complications

If left untreated, both of these STIs can potentially cause severe health complications. Untreated chlamydia in women can cause pelvic inflammatory diseases (PID), liver disease and potentially a risk of infertility. The consequences of not treating chlamydia in men can result in infertility. Women who fail to treat gonorrhoea can develop PID, and can experience an ectopic pregnancy. While in men, infertility and an infection in the heart, spine, joints and brain can potentially develop. Antibiotic medication is advised to treat chlamydia. Although gonorrhoea has become resistant to some medications, there are still some antibiotics that will treat the infection effectively and reduce your risk of complications. However wearing a condom is the only way to prevent becoming infected or passing on an STI.

The rise of STIs, in particular amongst young people shows how important campaigns such as FPA's and Brook's Sexual Health Week are in educating and bringing awareness to sexual health and safe sex. As shown in recent figures, this year's official slogan 'XES- We Can't Move Backwards' is more significant than ever.

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