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University freshers urged to use condoms amid record levels of gonorrhoea

Students are being urged to use a condom and get tested regularly to protect themselves and others from sexually transmitted infections.

The UKHSA is urging all those heading to university to use a condom with any new or casual partners, and to get tested regularly, after gonorrhoea diagnoses rocketed to 82,592 in 2022. This is an increase of more than 50% compared to 2021.

Young people aged 15 to 24 years remain the most likely to be diagnosed with STIs. Last year there were over 400 diagnoses of STIs every day in this age group.

‘Starting university can be an exciting time. But it is very important to be aware of the risks of catching STIs from condomless sex. STIs can have serious consequences and there are very high numbers of STIs at the moment – but there are some easy steps you can take to reduce your risk of infection,’ said Dr Katy Sinka, Head of Sexually Transmitted Infections at UKHSA.

‘Condoms are the best defence against STIs. If you didn’t use one the last time you had sex with a new or casual partner please do get tested even if you are not showing any symptoms, it’s free and confidential.’

Though STIs are usually easily treated with antibiotics, many can cause serious health issues if left untreated. Chlamydia and gonorrhoea can cause infertility and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), while syphilis can cause serious, irreversible and potentially life-threatening problems with your brain, heart, or nerves.

‘The STI stats speak for themselves. It’s never been more important to think about condoms and testing. Condoms are the only method that protect us from STIs so make sure you have some handy and know where to get more,’ said Laura Domegan, Head of Nursing at Brook, the sexual health and wellbeing charity.