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United Kingdom: More Casual Sex by Young People Drives Disease to Record High

November 28, 2005

A new report by Britain's Health Protection Agency found that nearly 700,000 new STD diagnoses were made in 2004, up 62 percent from a decade ago. "There is a more relaxed attitude toward casual sex," said professor Peter Borriello, director of the HPA's Center for Infections. "People don't take that seriously so neither do they take protecting themselves seriously. There is a perception that these infections are trivial, treated with antibiotics. But HIV is serious: It is less of a fatal disease because of improvements in therapy but resistant strains are emerging."

In 2004, chlamydia diagnoses were up 9 percent from 2003, exceeding 100,000 cases for the first time. Authorities suspect the actual figure could be six times higher, because screening in some areas found 12 percent of 16- to 25-year-olds were infected. In the general population, less than 2 percent of those in this age group had confirmed infections. Specialists said a national chlamydia screening program, which is being rolled out, could account for some of last year's rise.

The 7,275 new HIV diagnoses reported in 2004 brought the number of persons living with HIV to 58,300. The total includes both those diagnosed and an estimated 20,000 who were unaware of their infection, which turned up in blood given anonymously for other purposes. "We are seeing a trend of transmission of HIV that is resistant," Borriello said. "So it is obvious that the transmitter knew they were infected and was taking antiretroviral drugs at the time."

Most of the HIV infections were acquired in Africa. Sex between men is the main route of HIV transmission in the United Kingdom, accounting for 2,185 cases in 2004, the highest figure since 1990. Infections via heterosexual sex more than doubled from 227 cases in 2000 to 498 in 2004.

Syphilis was up 37 percent from 2003, with 2,234 cases in 2004. Most syphilis patients are men who have sex with men. Lymphogranuloma venereum, a type of chlamydia not previously seen in Britain, was diagnosed in 215 gay men, mostly in London and Brighton.

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Excerpted from:
The Independent (London)
11.25.05; Jeremy Laurance

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