Public Health England (PHE) has launched ‘Protect against STIs’, a new campaign that aims to reduce the rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among 16-24-year-olds and normalise and encourage condom use in young people.

The campaign is the first government sexual health campaign in eight years and aims to raise awareness of the serious consequences of STIs, which can cause infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID - an infection of the female upper genital tract, including the womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries), swollen or painful testicles and even meningitis. Gonorrhoea is also a particular concern because it is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics, and may become untreatable in the future. The campaign highlights the increased likelihood of contracting an STI if having sex without a condom and that many STIs are symptomless, including seven in 10 cases of chlamydia.

To coincide with the launch of the campaign, a new YouGov survey of 2,007 young people revealed that almost half (47 per cent) of sexually active young people said they have had sex with someone new for the first time without using a condom; whilst one in 10 sexually active young people said that they had never used a condom.

Sexual health is a challenging topic for young adults to discuss, with 56 per cent of men and 43 per cent of women saying that it is difficult to talk about STIs with friends. Furthermore, 58 per cent said that if they had an STI they would find it difficult to talk to their sexual partner about it.

Gwenda Hughes, head of STI surveillance at PHE commented: "Rates of STIs among young people continue to be too high and it is concerning that many sexually active young people are not using condoms with new partners. Six in 10 chlamydia and gonorrhoea diagnoses are in those under 25 years of age, so we need to remind young people of the importance of using condoms with a new or casual partner to help prevent infection."

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