Public Health England had launched ‘Protect against STIs’, a new campaign that aims to reduce the rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among 16 to 24-year-olds through condom usage. The campaign is the first government sexual health campaign in 8 years.
To coincide with the launch of the campaign, a new YouGov survey of
2,007 young people reveals current attitudes towards condom use and what
prevented them from using protection.
Shockingly, the findings revealed that almost half (47%) of sexually
active young people said they have had sex with someone new for the
first time without using a condom; whilst 1 in 10 sexually active young
people said that they had never used a condom.
The new research 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.
In 2016, there were over 141,000 chlamydia and gonorrhoea diagnoses
in people aged between 15 and 24 in England and almost 6 in 10 (59%) of
all those diagnosed with an STI were among this age group.
‘Protect against STIs’ aims to raise awareness of the serious consequences of STIs, which can cause infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID
- an infection of the female upper genital tract, including the womb,
fallopian tubes and ovaries), swollen or painful testicles and even
meningitis. 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 7 in 10 cases of chlamydia.
Despite the rates of STIs
remaining consistently high among young people, currently, twice as
many young people say that the main reason for using condoms is to avoid
pregnancy (58%), rather than to avoid getting an STI (29%).
The campaign aims to help normalise and encourage condom use in young
people, as it was revealed that 1 in 3 (32%) young adults said that
they have never seen a condom mentioned in sex scenes on TV or in films.
‘Protect Against STIs’
launches on 15 December 2017 with a nationwide digital advertising
campaign targeting young people. The new advertising hears from real
people talking about their own personal experiences of having an STI.
The identities of the individuals will not be shown but will be
animated by emojis. The campaign is being supported by a range of
partners, including the Family Planning Association (FPA), Durex and British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH).
Gwenda Hughes, Head of STI Surveillance at Public Health England comments:
Rates of STIs
among young people continue to be too high and it is concerning that
many sexually active young people are not using condoms with new
partners. Six in 10 chlamydia and gonorrhoea diagnoses are in those
under 25 years of age, so we need to remind young people of the
importance of using condoms with a new or casual partner to help prevent
Dr Sara Kayat, TV doctor and campaign supporter comments:
Using a condom is the safest way to ensure that you avoid contracting STIs, such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea. Whilst many STIs
are symptomless, contracting them can have serious health consequences
if left untreated and even lead to infertility. As I tell patients in my
clinic every week, it’s just not worth putting yourself at risk by not
using a condom.
Tom Haywood, Senior Brand Manager at Durex UK, said:
rates remain high amongst young people in England and we want young
people to know that sex can be fun and safe, if you wear a condom. There
is still a perception for many that condoms reduce pleasure and fun,
but condoms should be a key part of positive sexual activity as they
help protect against STIs. Through this campaign, Durex wants to help educate young people around condom use and help reduce levels of STIs.
Visit the campaign website for more information.
Dr Elizabeth Carlin, President of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) comments:
are delighted to support this important new campaign from Public Health
England. It is both timely and crucial given the high rates of sexual
infections in young people, many of whom do not have symptoms. Condoms
remain essential in the fight against STIs, as well as HIV,
and we recommend using them for sex with any new or casual partners.
We urge anyone who is concerned about their sexual health, or risks they
have taken, to have a check-up and be tested - it is quick and easy to
Jesse, aged 24 from London who contracted chlamydia and gonorrhoea in the past comments:
I’ve had both chlamydia and gonorrhea in the
past when I didn’t use a condom and it wasn’t a nice experience. They
caused pain in my groin and discomfort when urinating. The worst of it
though was having to tell my previous and current sexual partner that I
had contracted the STIs,
so they also needed to get checked and treated. I had symptoms, but I
know there are so many people who don’t, so now when having sex with
someone new I will definitely use a condom.
Campaign advertising and images can be downloaded online.
Dr Sara Kayat is a GP at Grays Inn Road Medical Practice. Her
main areas of expertise are sexual and reproductive health, as well as
surgical specialities like ENT and orthopaedics. Interviews available upon request.
Public Health England
Public Health England
exists to protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, and
reduce health inequalities. It does this through world-class science,
knowledge and intelligence, advocacy, partnerships and the delivery of
specialist public health services. PHE is an operationally autonomous
executive agency of the Department of Health. Twitter: @PHE_uk, Facebook: www.facebook.com/PublicHealthEngland.
The Family Planning Association (FPA) is supporting the ‘Protect against STIs’ campaign by helping to deliver sexual health information and support to key audiences via their Sexwise website.