UK Government

Department of Health: Ignorance and indifference risks spread of chlamydia

Press Release   •   Jan 08, 2010 11:15 GMT

New campaign encourages under-25s to say “yes” to chlamydia tests

One in five people don’t realise catching chlamydia can affect a woman’s fertility, according to a survey out today to mark the launch of a new sexual health advertising campaign.

The Populus survey of 2,000 young adults and parents shows that superficial knowledge and a casual attitude to the most prevalent STI in England could be risking the nation’s sexual health. Last year alone nearly 60,000 15 - 24 year olds tested positive for the infection [1].

The survey found that:
• Two thirds (65 per cent) don’t use a condom when they have sex with a new partner for the first time

• Nine out of ten (90 per cent) don’t get tested for STIs before starting a new relationship, leaving themselves and their partner at risk

• More than three quarters of young people (78 per cent) are aware that chlamydia is the most commonly diagnosed STI in England

The study, conducted on behalf of the Department of Health and the Department for Children, Schools and Families marks the launch of a new advertising campaign, Chlamydia. Worth Talking About  Supported by the National Chlamydia Screening Programme (NCSP), the campaign encourages greater acceptance of chlamydia screening among 15 - 24 year olds.

Gillian Merron, Public Health Minister, said: 
“Chlamydia is a silent infection that can have serious consequences. Young people sometimes feel too embarrassed to ask for the test even though they know it is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections in the UK.

“The Government’s Chlamydia. Worth Talking About campaign is designed to encourage normal conversations about sexual health, relationships, contraceptive choices and protection against STIs.”

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that more than a third of parents of 15 - 24 year olds (41 per cent) have not spoken to their children about any STIs.  Furthermore, one in five (20%) believe their son or daughter isn’t the type of person to sleep around and 14% believe he or she isn’t having sex at all.  This is despite the fact that the overwhelming majority (76 per cent) are aware that chlamydia is widespread among young people.

Children’s Minister Dawn Primarolo said:
“We want parents and professionals to encourage young people to have open and frank conversations about contraception and sexual health and to help remove the stigma associated with sensitive problems such as chlamydia. 

“I hope that this campaign not only helps to raise awareness of the dangers of undetected chlamydia, but that it encourages many more young people to be tested.”

Sex and relationship expert Dr Catherine Hood, said:
“Despite knowing how common chlamydia is, many young adults are worryingly indifferent to the potentially serious consequences of catching and leaving chlamydia untreated.  Chlamydia often has no symptoms and so I’m urging all sexually active under-25s to say ‘yes’ to a chlamydia test. I’m urging parents to realise the risks of STIs and the benefits of testing, and talk to their children about it.

“Chlamydia often doesn’t have any symptoms and if left untreated it can lead to infertility, long-term pelvic pain and other serious health problems.  GPs and nurses are routinely offering 15-24 year olds a chlamydia test when they see them – it’s nothing personal and completely normal to accept one.  Remember, condoms are the only protection against STIs.”

The new campaign seeks to address the fact that one in seven (14 per cent) of the young people surveyed admit they are worried about accepting a chlamydia test because they are not sure what’s involved.  Almost the same number (16 per cent) say they would find it embarrassing.  The campaign will highlight the fact that chlamydia tests are completely confidential and involve nothing more than providing a quick urine sample.

Chlamydia. Worth Talking About is supported by the NCSP and follows the Contraception. Worth Talking About campaign, launched in November by the Department of Health and the Department for Children, Schools and Families.  The TV, radio, print and digital campaign highlights the fact that chlamydia often doesn’t have any symptoms and urges people to accept a test when they are offered one.  It will also remind people that testing and treatment for chlamydia is easy and painless.

Though there is still work to be done in tackling high rates of infection, good progress has been made by the NCSP.  Figures reveal more than 3,000 young people are already accepting a test every day [2].  Young people can expect to be offered a chlamydia test at over 22,000 testing sites in England including local pharmacies, doctors’ surgeries, hospitals and clinics [3].

For information around chlamydia testing, contraception all information about sexual health, visit www.nhs.uk/worthtalkingabout

[1] Annual report of the National Chlamydia Screening Programme in England 2008/09

[2] Annual report of the National Chlamydia Screening Programme in England 2008/09

[3] 22789 sites as at Dec 2009 [NCSP]

Notes to editors

1.      For media enquires please contact DH press office on 020 7210 5649.

2.      The first phase of the campaign, Contraception. Worth Talking About was launched in November and aimed to increase young people’s awareness of the different types of contraception and remind them that they won't be protected against STIs unless they use a condom.

Case study: Adam Child, 25, T4’s Shipwrecked ‘Shipwrecker of the Year’ in 2008, has caught chlamydia twice in the past by not wearing a condom

The first time I caught chlamydia I was only 15.  The girl I slept with was part of my extended group of friends, and as we knew each other I didn’t want to embarrass her and ruin the moment by suggesting I use a condom.  Afterwards, my mates told me she had got chlamydia.  Although I didn’t have any symptoms, I got tested and found out I had it, too.

At 18 I caught chlamydia again. I’d mostly been careful, but wasn’t really aware of the risks and had unprotected sex a couple of times.

Now I get tested regularly – everyone should – and want to raise awareness of just how easy it is to catch chlamydia.  If chlamydia isn’t caught and treated it can be really serious for girls and guys.  Getting tested just involves peeing in a pot; it’s easy and completely confidential.

About the research

Populus interviewed a sample of 1,243 people aged 15-24 and 1,265 parents of people aged 15-24 online between 15th and 21st December 2009. The data have been weighted to be representative of young people aged 15-24 and all adults in England. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. For more details please go to www.populus.co.uk

About Dr Catherine Hood

Dr.Catherine Hood is qualified in all areas of general medicine and is an expert in relationships and sexual health. She gives weekly advice through her regular page as the Sunday Mirror’s Sex Doctor.

Catherine trained in medicine at Oxford University where she continued to work as a lecturer in communication and a clinical tutor in general practice, helping the doctors to talk effectively with their patients. She continues to see patients in sexual health clinics and is trained in psychosexual medicine.

About the NCSP

The NCSP in England aims to

  • Prevent and control chlamydia through early detection and treatment of asymptomatic infection;
  • Reduce onward transmission to sexual partners;
  • Prevent the consequences of untreated infection.
  • The NCSP aims to ensure that all sexually active men and women under 25 years of age are aware of chlamydia, its effects, and have access to services providing screening, prevention and treatment to reduce their risk of infection or onward transmission.

    Contacts

    NDS Enquiries
    Phone: For enquiries please contact the above department
    ndsenquiries@coi.gsi.gov.uk