A leading sexual health charity for young people has called for urgent investment in sexual health services after the Health Promotion Agency published figures that showed sexually transmitted diseases were still on the rise in young people.
During 2004-5, the infection rates for a wide range of STIs rose in young people aged 19 and under.
The number of 16-19-year-old men contracting syphilis increased by 126%, while the rate for young women was up by 13%. Infection rates for genital chlamydia were also up in this age group by 8% for young men and 5% for young women.
The figures also revealed a rise in the number of younger boys contracting chlamydia last year with an 11% rise in infection rates among 15-year-olds. Younger women fared better with falling rates in the 15-16-year old age range. However, there was a 4% rise in the infection rate for girls under 15.
Jan Barlow, chief executive of young people’s sexual health charity Brook, said the figures showed that investment in sexual health services was desperately needed. “It is therefore extremely worrying that in some areas facing financial pressures money earmarked for sexual health services has apparently been diverted to help balance the books,” she said.
Barlow called on the government to prioritise prevention. “They need to ensure that every young person has the information they need to protect themselves and this means requiring schools to teach sex and relationships education as a compulsory part of the national curriculum.”