Free condoms could be the key to reducing sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates, according to new NICE guidance.
A range of distribution schemes have been laid out urging local authorities and frontline services which deal with STIs to start giving out protective contraception for free. NICE’s report with Public Health England suggested authorities should focus on people involved in ‘increased rates of risky sex’, such as having multiple partners or frequently changing partners.
Young people aged 16-24 and men who have sex with other men have been marked as the most at-risk and therefore the most in need of free condoms to prevent infection. Around 435,000 sexually transmitted infections were diagnosed in England in 2015.
NICE suggested condoms should be distributed through pharmacies, sexual health charities and universities.
Centre for Guidelines director at NICE Professor Mark Baker said: ‘Although we are seeing an overall decrease in the total number of STIs being diagnosed, there have been large, disproportionate increases in diagnoses among specific groups.
‘Condoms are the best way to prevent most infections being passed on through sex. If local authorities and other commissioners can work together to improve condom availability and use amongst people at high-risk we could significantly reduce the rates of STIs.’
Rates of syphilis and gonorrhoea increased by 76% and 53% respectively between 2012 and 2015. Most diagnoses of chlamydia and genital warts were found among young people aged 15 to 24, while most diagnoses of gonorrhoea and syphilis were found in men who have sex with men.
In 2013, the Family Planning Association estimated that treatment of STIs cost the NHS approximately £620 million.