Monday, March 22, 2010

Irish Examiner: Young people 'unwilling to talk about STIs'

Monday, March 22, 2010 - 01:14 PM

Young people are putting themselves at risk of sexually transmitted diseases because they will not talk about them, a report claimed today.

A survey found most 18 to 20-year-olds would not tell anyone if they contracted an infection through sex because they are more concerned with the social stigma than the potential health consequences.

The majority also said they would not confront the partner from whom they contracted the sexually transmitted infection (STI) out of fear that they might be exposed or blamed for it.

Dr John Lambert, a consultant in infectious diseases and genitourinary medicine, warned young adults they were risking illness, infertility and even death.

He said: “This research indicates that although young people’s awareness of the term sexually transmitted infection is relatively high, their knowledge of specific STIs and their respective symptoms and consequences, remains low.

“This lack of awareness and understanding is putting their health at risk.”

The survey on attitudes to sexual health was carried out among 12 groups of 18 to 20-year-olds in Dublin, Cork and Galway over December and January for the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

Both young men and young women believed the social stigma of contracting an STI would be worse than that of an unplanned pregnancy.

Most said they had become sexually active between the age of 16 and 17 years, with a minority reporting having sex as young as 15 years. The majority had already had sex with more than one partner.

A “sizeable” number said they have had a “one night stand” while a “notable” proportion have had sex more than once without using a condom, according to the researchers, who did not take percentages but gathered responses for the report.

Condoms were viewed by all to be a necessity, but more out of fear of unplanned pregnancy rather than protection against contracting an STI, the study found.

Dr Shirley McQuade, medical director at The Well Woman Clinic, warned that anyone can get an STI and having unprotected sex increases the risk.

“If you take a risk and have unprotected sex, get tested afterwards,” she advised.

“And if you are about to start a new relationship and begin to have unprotected sex, both partners should get tested beforehand. Don’t put yourself at risk.”