Welcome fall in sexual health infection rates

EASTBOURNE has one of the worst records for sexually transmitted infections in East Sussex, according to figures released by the Health Protection Agency (HPA).

They show it has the highest number of chlamydia infections for 15-24 year olds in the county.

And out of 37 towns in the HPA’s south east coast region, Eastbourne came fifth for the number of recorded cases of STIs in 2010, with 755 per 100,000 people.

Only Brighton, Crawley, Guildford and Hastings ranked higher.

Dr Dulcie McBride, consultant in Public Health Medicine, said, “There are more attendances every year at our sexual health clinics in Eastbourne. We do therefore have the opportunity to diagnose and treat more people.

“Access to our clinics has improved as they are now provided in the evening and there are more walk-in appointments.

“We are continuing with the chlamydia screening programme which tests 16 to 25-year-olds and provides treatment to those who need it.

“Sexually active under-25 year olds should be tested for chlamydia every year or when they change their partner.

“There are also a wide range of services available to enable people to protect themselves against STIs, such as the C-card scheme.

“This allows young people to collect free condoms from a variety of youth and healthcare settings across the Eastbourne area.”

The wider picture showed that last year the number of new STI diagnoses fell by six per cent in the south east coast region, better than the national figure of one per cent.

Cases of chlamydia, genital warts and syphillis were also down, though the region saw a rise in cases of gonorrhoea and genital herpes.

Sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) welcomed the overall drop.

Its regional manager, Sue Peters, said, “The decreases in STIs that we saw in 2010 are small, but very significant.

“We’re finally beginning to see a slowing down in the rates of infections, particularly among young people, showing that the time and money that in recent years has been put into sexual health, and in particular chlamydia screening, more cases is starting to pay off.

“We are at a vital tipping point but, with the national sexual health strategy of the last 10 years now expired, government leadership and local investment are crucial.”