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Call For Safer Sex As STI Cases Increase

Ministry Calls For Safer Sex As STI Cases Increase

THE Ministry of Health is encouraging people to have safe sex as the latest figures from sexual health clinics show an increasing number of chlamydia and gonorrhoea cases.

The Ministry of Health has just released the Sexually Transmitted Infections Quarterly Report, which shows chlamydia was the most frequently diagnosed sexually transmitted infection (STI) diagnosed in sexual health clinics in the three months from January to March 2001.

The report, prepared for the Ministry by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR), says 876 cases of laboratory confirmed chlamydia were reported by sexual health clinics, up 14 percent from 770 cases in the same period of 2000.

Chlamydia diagnoses have been steadily increasing since 1996. The increase had previously been attributed to the introduction of better testing methods it now appeared a real increase in chlamydia infection was occurring, said ESR research associate Anne McNicholas.

There were 150 confirmed gonorrhoea cases, up 3 percent from the 145 cases in the January quarter last year.

Ministry of Health senior public health advisor Alison Roberts said the increasing number of sexual infections being reported was concerning, although one reason for this might be that more people were seeking treatment.

"The figures highlight the need to use condoms as they show people are not having safe sex. Some sexually transmitted infections don't have any symptoms so safe sex is the best protection.

"We also advise people to visit their doctor or sexual health clinic if they have any concerns about their sexual health as early treatment for a sexually transmitted infection means you face less risk of complications. Untreated sexually transmitted infections can lead to long term problems, including infertility."

People needed to be honest with their partners if they had an sexually transmitted infection so their partners could be tested and treated too, Dr Roberts said.

The Ministry of Health is also developing the first comprehensive sexual and reproductive health strategy for New Zealand as it is concerned about the rates of abortion, teenage pregnancy and STIs. Reducing these will be a priority. The first stage of the strategy will be completed by August

This report does not represent the total number of sexually transmitted infections in the community as the data was not collected from some health providers, for example GPs, who treat sexually transmitted infections.

ENDS

For more information contact: Anne-Marie Robinson, Media Advisor, ph: 04-496-2067 or 025-802 622 Internet address: http://www.moh.govt.nz/media.html

For further interpretation of the data contact; Maria Turley, ESR Research Associate. Tel: 04 914 0694

For local comment contact; Rick Franklin, Auckland Sexual Health Clinic, Tel: 09 307 2885 or 021 988 365 Kitty Flannery, Waikato Sexual Health Clinic, Tel: 07 839 8732 Noeleen Tanner, Tauranga Sexual Health Clinic, Tel: 07 579 8130 Jane Macdonald, Wellington Sexual Health Clinic, Tel: 04 385 9879 Ed Coughlin, Christchurch Sexual Health, Tel: 04 364 0485

Background: surveillance of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) using sexual health clinic data

The Ministry of Health commissions the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) to undertake the surveillance of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). This surveillance includes the collation of anonymised data on STIs diagnosed at all sexual health clinics in New Zealand. The latest report includes surveillance data from 32 sexual health clinics, as well as 41 family planning clinics and 18 student and youth health clinics.

As sexual health clinic attendees are a self-selected population, the data may not truly predict patterns in the wider population. This surveillance information is useful for identifying trends in the population that attend sexual health clinics, and may provide an alert for changes that are occurring in the wider population

These figures underestimate the true incidence of STIs in New Zealand as more than 50 percent of STIs are likely to be diagnosed by other health providers, such as GPs and other family planning clinics not included in the survey.

Surveillance data are collected on the following STIs: Chlamydia (confirmed and probable) Gonorrhoea (confirmed and probable) Genital warts (1st diagnosis) Genital herpes (1st diagnosis) Syphilis Non-specific urethritis (NSU); males only Chancroid Granuloma inguinale (GI) Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV)

This report is made public and circulated to health providers to raise awareness about the risk of sexually transmitted infections. It reinforces the need for health providers to diagnose, test for and treat STIs and for people to visit their doctor or sexual health clinic if they have concerns as diagnosis and early treatment are likely to decrease the risk of complications.

Facts on safe sex: safe sex means preventing blood or sexual fluid from passing between partners there are many ways to make sure sex is safe, including correct use of condoms and only having one sexual partner safe sex is essential in controlling the spread of sexually transmitted infections every sexually active person needs to take responsibility for their health and be aware of the risks of sexual activity and how they can make it safer sexually transmitted infections can be symptomless and left untreated can lead to long term problems including infertility partners also need to be tested and treated.

Ends


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