Experts in Britain say give away free condoms in pubs, clubs and taxis

Experts in Britain say one way of reducing the soaring numbers of sexual transmitted infections would be to give away free condoms in pubs, clubs and taxis.

They say this would also reduce the levels of unwanted pregnancies and abortions.

In a report by researchers at Southampton University, St Mary's hospital, Portsmouth, and Southampton General Hospital, found significant links between binge drinking and unsafe sex.

The report is the first major study to look in detail at the sexual risks involved in drinking alcohol, particularly for women.

In a survey of 520 people attending sexual health clinics it was found that 76% said they had unprotected sex due to drinking and those with sex infections on average drank 40% more; only a sixth of those polled said they always had safe sex with a new partner.

A third of those questioned said they thought they had ended up with a sexually-transmitted infection, such as genital warts, syphilis or gonorrhoea, as a result of their binge drinking.

It was found that women who binged the most heavily experienced significantly more unwanted pregnancies with one in seven admitting they had terminated a pregnancy.

The report makes it clear that binge drinking is fuelling an epidemic of sexually transmitted infections as well as high rates of unplanned pregnancies and abortions in Britain.

The survey's findings come as sexual infection diagnoses have been almost continually rising since the 1990s, with the highest increases in recent years being seen in the 16 to 24 age group; just last year there was a 2% rise in total cases to 376,508 in England alone.

The researchers say the government needs to do more to tackle the association between drinking and unsafe sex.

Linda Tucker, one of the authors of the report, who is a consultant nurse in sexual health and HIV, says the report provides clear scientific evidence of the relationship between sexual risk and drinking too much alcohol.

Tucker says the government needs to reflect this link both in their sexual health and alcohol strategy which at present does not appear to link alcohol and risky sexual behaviour.

It appears from the survey that better access to condoms at the time and place they were needed would have enabled people to practice safer sex.

While young people can get free condoms from their doctor, family planning and sexual health clinics giving condoms away in pubs, clubs and taxis might be a more sensible approach.

A spokeswoman for the sexual health charity Brook said handing out free condoms had been tested in several areas and while widening access to condoms is a good idea, it needs to be twinned with giving people the confidence to say no to sex.

According to the Department of Health tackling sexual health and binge drinking were "priority issues".

The researchers say they believe that the study demonstrates a clear indication that national public health strategies related to sexual health, sexual behaviour, unintended pregnancy and sexual assault in the UK need to be focused on both sexual and alcohol risks.

The report also says the UK has the highest rate of teenage pregnancies in western Europe.

The study is published in the International Journal of STD and AIDS.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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