With more than 3 million people in London affected by STIs every year, the young people of the capital city are at a greater risk of contracting sexual health problems than any other part of the UK. With serious effects upon sufferers’ long-term mental and physical health, and placing extra strain on London’s health budget, the city’s youth population have admitted to being woefully ignorant of safe sex practices.
Research from the NHS has revealed that less than half (only 39%) of Londoners believe they have ‘very safe sex’ whilst more than one-in-ten admit they regularly engage in sex described as ‘unsafe – not even safe-ish – sex’. This has led to a city with a higher rate of STI diagnoses than anywhere else in the country.
The STI epidemic in the city is not just reserved for certain post codes or specific STI strands, with more than two-thirds of all London boroughs suffering at a rate above the UK average of chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and HIV. Approximately half of the HIV diagnoses in England were located in London – highlighting the extent of the problem.
Less than half (44%) of Londoners can identify all the ways of contracting HIV, significantly less than the 65% of the general population who could identify all forms of HIV contraction.
The NHS are continuing their work to improve sexual health education amongst Londoners, with extra focus on the younger generations, and offering free advice and contraceptives. The NHS-approved condom supplier, Freedoms Shop, are distributing more than 2.5 million free condoms and lube sachets to London’s gay bars and clubs every year.
There are currently more than 300 health centres in clinics offering NHS-approved sexual health advice and contraceptives for at-risk individuals. Despite the increasing STI rates, there have been a number of successes in the capital in regards to sexual health.
The NHS-led London Sexual Health Programme (LSHP) and the London Teenage Pregnancy Unit managed to reduce the rate of under-18 conception in the capital. Additionally, the LSHP has helped support the highest rate of chlamydia screenings in the country – with 21.1% of residents attending a screening in 2010-11.
Additionally, the number of late HIV diagnoses has dropped by 25%, making the condition more treatable in a greater number of sufferers.
This work will have to continue if the sexual health of young people in London is to progress to a rate where it is comparable with the rest of the country – helping Londoners understand the risks of STIs and how to avoid them.