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Gonorrhea warning for students as cases reach record high

Students returning to university have been warned of the “very real danger” of catching an infection or sexually transmitted disease (STI), as cases of gonorrhea reach record levels in the UK.

The UK Health Safety Agency (UKHSA) has issued a warning encouraging the use of condoms when having sex with a new partner, particularly with young people who are most likely to spread STIs.

Last year, gonorrhea diagnoses jumped to 82,592, a 50% increase from 2021, and there were more than 400 diagnoses each day in the 15 to 24 age group.

Although STIs are usually easy to treat with antibiotics, many can lead to serious health problems if left untreated.

“It is very important to be aware of the risks of contracting STIs when having sex without a condom,” said Dr Katy Sinka, head of sexually transmitted diseases at UKHSA.

“STIs can have serious consequences and numbers are currently very high – but there are some simple steps you can take to reduce your risk of infection.

“If you’re a student going to college for the first time or returning for another year, it’s 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 serious, irreversible and life-threatening problems with the brain, heart or nerves.

Many people have no symptoms. This is why anyone who has had unprotected sex is encouraged to get tested before having sex with a new partner.

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Dr Sinka added: “Condoms are the best defense against STIs. If you didn’t use one the last time you had sex with a new or casual partner, get tested even if you have no symptoms, it’s free and confidential.

The UKHSA said that although the increase in gonorrhea diagnoses was partly due to increased testing, the scale of this increase strongly suggests there is more transmission.

Laura Domegan, head 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 method that protects us from STIs, so make sure you have them on hand and know where to get more.”


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