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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

STD epidemic overwhelming Britain's sexual health service

How the STI epidemic is overwhelming Britain's sexual health service- a screening card for sexual transmitted infections. In the next few months the government is due to unveil a £50 million advertising campaign warning of the dangers of unsafe sex - the biggest sexual health campaign since the portentous 1986 "Don't Die of Ignorance" initiative. It's long overdue.

Health Direct highlighted this issue nearly 12 months ago when the then Labour Health Secretarty John Reid claimed on November 21st 2005 "Sexually transmitted disease is reaching epidemic proportions amongst young women and requires a government response on the scale of the 1980s."

Britain's sexual health is in rapid decline: in the last decade cases of gonorrhoea and HIV have more than doubled, syphilis is resurgent (up 1500%), and the number of sexually active people under 25 infected with chlamydia is now thought to number just under half a million.

One of the country's most senior Genito-Urinary clinicians, Professor George Kinghorn, tells Panorama that it amounts to "a public health crisis".

With extensive access to patients and staff at the GUM (Genito-Urinary Medicine) clinic in Sheffield, Panorama revealed how the STI (sexually transmitted infection) epidemic is overwhelming Britain's sexual health service.

Across the country, waiting times are at record levels, with many clinics forced to turn away patients. Gill Bell, the Nurse Consultant in Sexual Health Advising in Sheffield, explains how it has become "the survival of the fittest".

Panorama followed the story of several patients seeking treatment to assess the other costs, including the poignant case of 24-year-old Sian, who developed Chlamydia over two years ago and has been struggling to get pregnant ever since.

The BBC camersa were with her in the operating theatre when her surgeon, Bill Ledger, discovers that her tubes are blocked with adhesions; and with her when she learns - just hours afterwards - whether she will be able to conceive naturally again. Professor Ledger estimates that 100 women a year, in Sheffield alone, are undergoing such operations.


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