November 3, 2005
In the past year, 1,321 teens contacted sex health clinics in Northern Ireland after contracting STDs, official figures show. Of the teens who made initial contact with Genito-Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinics, 81 girls and 19 boys were age 15, while 22 girls and one boy were age 14 or younger.
In just three years, the doubling in volume of teens contacting GUM clinics has added severe pressure to a system already strained by an upsurge in STDs. Since 2001, the clinics have seen at least 4,414 teens with STDs including HIV, syphilis, uncomplicated gonorrhea, chlamydia and genital warts. One boy and four girls under age 14 were recently diagnosed with HIV.
"We are seeing no signs of this stopping," Dr. Brian Smyth, head of the Northern Ireland's Communicable Disease Surveillance Center, said earlier this year. "Some people have been infected, then treated and then they have got infected again," Smyth said. "The safe sex message has gone. It now needs to be reinforced," he said. "We are storing up many problems for the future. People need to know that if they indulge in unsafe sex, they are putting themselves at risk."