This site is intended for health professionals only

Sexual infections hit all-time high

New figures show that rates of sexually transmitted diseases in Northern Ireland have risen to an all-time high.

According to a report published by the Health Protection Agency (HPA), cases of syphilis, gonorrhoea and genital herpes all increased in 2006, with chlamydia infections up by a fifth.

Experts blame the jump on the fact that young people are ignoring the safe sex message.

Department of Health senior medical officer Dr Lorraine Doherty said: "This important report highlights the need for ongoing and sustained action to promote the safer sex message, in particular amongst young people.

"If left untreated these infections can have serious health consequences such as ectopic pregnancy, infertility and in pregnancy miscarriage, stillbirth and congenital defects."

The HPA also said fresh diagnoses of Aids had fallen to 57 from 64 since last year.

There were 43 new cases of syphilis, 1,979 of chlamydia, 274 of genital herpes and 195 of gonorrhoea. Those aged between 20-24 were found to be particularly at risk.

Joanna Gregg, sexual health co-ordinator for the Eastern Health Board, warned many people did not know they were infected.

"I think it is a lot more complicated than people becoming more promiscuous. We have the problem of young people consuming alcohol and when the drink is in the equation the wit is out," she said.

"These diseases are treatable if we catch them at an early stage but can have health implications for fertility in the future."

Copyright © PA Business 2007

Health Protection Agency

Take part in our online survey now.