Wednesday June 11, 10:35 AM
Britain facing sexual disease crisis
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain is in the grip of a sexual health crisis with cases of diseases like syphilis and gonorrhoea soaring, a parliamentary committee says.
There are now more HIV patients in Britain than ever before, the Health Select Committee said in a report on Wednesday but it is much "older" sexually transmitted diseases that have exploded in recent years.
"I do not use the word lightly but during the course of this inquiry it has become plain that with sexual health we are looking at a public health crisis," said David Hinchliffe, chairman of the committee and a member of Prime Minister Tony Blair's ruling Labour Party.
The legislators said 10 percent of sexually active women are infected with chlamydia, syphilis rates have leapt by 500 percent in the last six years and incidences of gonorrhoea have doubled over the same period.
Rates of teenage pregnancy were the highest in Europe.
The committee said there were a number of underlying problems -- a failure of the state health service to recognise sexually transmitted diseases, other than HIV/AIDS, as a serious problem, a lack of political leadership over many years and a consequent lack of resources and strategy.
The report called for sex and relationship education to become part of the national curriculum in schools, and for the introduction of a set of health service guidelines in sexual health care.
The Health Protection Agency confirmed that trends in sexual health care were continuing to decline.
New diagnosis of chlamydia had increased 10 percent from 64,800 in 2000 to 71,125 in 2001, and in the same time period gonorrhoea increased by 7 percent from 21,131 to 22,697 and syphilis by 119 percent from 327 to 715.
Dr Kevin Fenton, head of the agency's HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STI) division, added in a statement: "The rise in HIV infections has also continued with 5,300 new HIV diagnoses reported so far for 2002. When all reports are received, this figure is expected to reach 6,600, which is a 26 percent increase on 2001.
"These rises have led to an increase in workload for genito-urinary medicine clinics up by 17 percent from 1996 to 2001. Delays in treatment can result in a risk of infection spreading to a wider group of sexual partners and exacerbating the problem."
The Royal College of Physicians said services were collapsing under the weight of demand. Clinics were having to close their doors half-an-hour after opening due to the large amount of people waiting to be seen.
Many patients were waiting 3-4 hours, causing so much frustration fights sometimes broke out.
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