Students returning to university have been warned of the “very real risk” of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or disease as the number of gonorrhea cases in the UK reaches record levels.
Britain’s health regulator UKHSA has issued a warning urging people to use condoms when having sex with a new partner, particularly among younger people who are most likely to spread sexually transmitted diseases.
Last year, the number of gonorrhea diagnoses jumped to 82,592 – a 50 percent increase from 2021 – and in the 15-24 age group there were more than 400 diagnoses each day.
Although sexually transmitted diseases are usually easily treated with antibiotics, many of them can cause serious health problems if left untreated.
“It is very important to be aware of the risks of contracting sexually transmitted diseases through condomless sex,” said Dr. Katy Sinka, Head of Sexually Transmitted Diseases at UKHSA.
“STIs can have serious consequences and there are currently a lot of sexually transmitted diseases – but you can take some simple steps to reduce your risk of infection.
“If you are a student going to university for the first time or returning for a new year, it is a good idea to get tested before you start having sex.”
Chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause infertility and pelvic inflammatory disease, while syphilis can cause severe, irreversible and potentially life-threatening problems with your brain, heart or nerves.
Many people do not show symptoms, which is why anyone who has had unprotected sex is recommended to get tested before having sex with a new partner.
Dr. Sinka added: “Condoms are the best defense against sexually transmitted diseases. If you didn’t get tested the last time you had sex with a new or casual partner, please get tested even if you don’t have any symptoms. The test is free and confidential.”
The UKHSA said that while the increase in gonorrhea diagnoses was partly due to the increase in testing, the scale of the increase strongly suggested that there was more transmission.
Laura Domegan, director of nursing at sexual health charity Brook, said: “The statistics speak for themselves, it has never been more important to think about condoms and testing.”
“Condoms are the only way to protect us from sexually transmitted diseases, so make sure you have some on hand and know where to get more.”