Hastings still battling with high STI rate

HASTINGS continues to struggle with high rates of sexually transmitted diseases, particularly among young people.

Figures released this week by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) showed that the town has the second highest rate of chlamydia infections for 15-24-year-olds in the south east coast region, higher than Brighton and behind only Eastbourne.

Out of the 37 towns included in the region, Hastings also has the third highest rate of syphilis and the second highest concentration of genital warts.

Dulcie McBride, consultant in public health medicine at NHS Hastings and Rother said: “There are more attendances every year at our sexual health clinics in Hastings and Rother - we therefore have the opportunity to diagnose and treat more people. We have improved access to our clinics by providing them in the evening and increasing the number of walk-in appointments. Last year, as part of the chlamydia screening programme, we tested a greater proportion of our 16-25 year olds than any other area in the south east coast region.”

Overall the number of STIs diagnosed fell across the country which Professor Jackie Cassell of the HPA said was ‘encouraging’.

But she said: “These latest figures show that poor sexual health continues to be a serious problem among the UK’s young adults, and among men who have sex with men. Many studies have shown that young adults often use condoms inconsistently. Many have unsafe sex and some lack the skills and confidence to negotiate safer sex.

“We cannot rely on prompt diagnosis and treatment alone – a shift in behaviour is the only way we will bring down this continued increase in infections. Substantial numbers of young people remain undiagnosed, untreated and unaware of the risk both to their own health and that of their sexual partner.”

She said that getting regular check-ups was crucial as was using condoms properly.

But Sue Peters, of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said the lead had to come from the authorities. “We are at a vital tipping point - Government leadership and local investment are crucial,” she said.