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Sexual health 'at crisis levels'

July 1, 2004
The sexual health of people living in the North West has reached crisis levels, according to experts.

The warning comes as a study by the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University revealed an increase in HIV infections.

The number of new HIV infections in the region was the biggest since regional monitoring began in 1996.

A total of 725 new HIV and Aids cases were reported in 2003 - a regional increase of 18% from 2002.

There are now 2,988 people in the North West living with HIV/Aids, which is also the highest level since regional figures became available in 1996, and a 23% on last year.

Other sexually transmitted diseases, such as chlamydia and syphilis, are at epidemic levels in some parts of the region.

The centre's Professor Mark Bellis said: "Over the last ten years sexual health in the North West has deteriorated rapidly and is now at crisis levels.

"We urgently need better sex education in schools, widespread promotion of condoms in the media and additional investment in increasingly overstretched treatment services."

He was backed by a host of sexual health experts from across the North West.

Professor Qutub Syed, director of the Health Protection Agency North West, said: "The increased incidence of sexually transmitted infections in the North West and across the country is truly shocking.

'Sexual lottery'

"People need to wake up to the reality of a very serious situation and start taking responsibility for their own actions and for those of their partners."

"HIV is not something that happened in the 1980s. It is a real and present danger and we are seeing more and more new cases, year after year.

"There are also significant levels of syphilis and chlamydia in Manchester and other major centres.

"People must understand that unprotected sex is a lottery and a gamble that is not worth taking."

Safer sex plea

Dr. Penny Cook, Senior Lecturer in Communicable Diseases at John Moores, who compiled the latest figures, added: "A significant number of people are continuing to ignore the advice about safe sex.

"These risks are unnecessary when STIs can be prevented by simply wearing a condom during sex whoever you are, whoever you're with and wherever you are."

Regional Director for Public Health John Ashton said parents had to teach their children about the need for safer sex.

He said: "I am concerned that although the North West was at the leading edge when it came to responding to this epidemic in the 1980s, complacency now seems to have set in.

"This is part of a wider problem that in this country, parents do not talk with their children about matters to do with sex.

"Not to do this is putting our young children at risk."



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