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Half of sexually active young people have had sex with a new partner without using a condom

  • One in 10 sexually active 16-24 year olds have never used a condom1
  • One in three (35%) think carrying condoms gives the impression that you sleep around1
  • Nearly six in 10 of all chlamydia and gonorrhoea diagnoses in 2016 were in people aged 15 to 24[ii]
  • New campaign from Public Health England features personal stories from young people talking about contracting an STI and why they did not use protection
  • The ‘Protect against STIs’ campaign wants to encourage condom use to prevent young adults contracting and spreading STIs

Public Health England had launched ‘Protect against STIs’, a new campaign that aims to reduce the rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among 16-24 year olds through condom usage. The campaign is the first Government sexual health campaign in eight years.

 

To coincide with the launch of the campaign, a new YouGov survey of 2,007 young people reveals current attitudes towards condom use and what prevented them from using protection.

Shockingly, the findings revealed that almost half (47%) of sexually active young people said they have had sex with someone new for the first time without using a condom; whilst one in 10 sexually active young people said that they had never used a condom.1

The new research also revealed that sexual health is a challenging topic for young adults to discuss, as 56% of men and 43% of women said that it is difficult to talk about STIs with friends. Furthermore, 58% said that if they had an STI they would find it difficult to talk to their sexual partner about it.1

In 2016, there were over 141,000 chlamydia and gonorrhoea diagnoses in people aged between 15 and 24 in England and almost six in 10 (59%) of all those diagnosed with an STI were among this age group.2

‘Protect against STIs’ aims to raise awareness of the serious consequences of STIs, which can cause infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID - an infection of the female upper genital tract, including the womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries), swollen or painful testicles and even meningitis. Gonorrhoea is a particular concern because it is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics, and may become untreatable in the future. The campaign will be highlighting the increased likelihood of contracting an STI if having sex without a condom and that many STIs are symptomless, including six in 10 cases of chlamydia.

[iii]

Despite the rates of STIs remaining consistently high among young people, currently twice as many young people say that the main reason for using condoms is to avoid pregnancy (58%), rather than to avoid getting an STI (29%).1

The campaign aims to help normalise and encourage condom use in young people, as it was revealed that one in three (32%) young adults said that they have never seen a condom mentioned in sex scene on TV or in films.1

‘Protect Against STIs’ launches on 15th December with a nationwide digital advertising campaign targeting young people. The new advertising hears from real people talking about their own personal experiences of having an STI. The identities of the individuals will not be shown but will be animated by emojis. The campaign is being supported by a range of partners, including the Family Planning Association (FPA), Durex and British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH).

Gwenda Hughes, Head of STI surveillance at Public Health England comments: “Rates of STIs among young people continue to be too high and it is concerning that many sexually active young people are not using condoms with new partners. Six in 10 chlamydia and gonorrhoea diagnoses are in those under 25 years of age, so we need to remind young people of the importance of using condoms with a new or casual partner to help prevent infection.”

Dr Sara Kayat, TV doctor and campaign supporter comments: “Using a condom is the safest way to ensure that you avoid contracting STIs, such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea.  Whilst many STIs are symptomless, contracting them can have serious health consequences if left untreated and even lead to infertility. As I tell patients in my clinic every week, it’s just not worth putting yourself at risk by not using a condom.”

Tom Haywood, Senior Brand Manager at Durex UK comment: “STI rates remain high amongst young people in England and we want young people to know that sex can be fun and safe, if you wear a condom. There is still a perception for many that condoms reduce pleasure and fun, but condoms should be a key part of positive sexual activity as they help protect against STIs. Through this campaign, Durex wants to help educate young people around condom use and help reduce levels of STIs.”

For more information, search www.nhs.uk/protect-against-stis-use-a-condom


[i] YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2,007 adults aged 16-24. Fieldwork was undertaken between 10th - 16th November 2017.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 16 to 24).

[ii] ​Public Health England. Sexually Transmitted Infections and Chlamydia Screening in England, 2016. Health Protection Report Volume 11 Number 20. (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/617025/Health_Protection_Report_STIs_NCSP_2017.pdf)