Chlamydia Still a Problem in the UK

Sexually Transmitted Infections are notoriously hard to research as many individuals with STIs may have dormant symptoms, which in turn mean they do not get tested and treated when they acquire the infection. A good example of that comes from one of the most common STIs, chlamydia. In this article we consider what the most recent report from Public Health England found.

According to the so-called Health Protection Report, chlamydia was the most commonly diagnosed STI with an increased diagnosis rate of 5% in the UK. In total 206,912 individuals were diagnosed with the infection in 2012. The report based its findings on data from national GUM clinics as well as data from the National Chlamydia Screening Programme (NCSP). It is fair to say that the report this year was broader than past reports, as it included data from NCSP. Because of this, the 5% increase was deemed as reflecting the number of individual with chlamydia more accurately, rather than an indication of an overall rise of diagnoses.

What was particularly interesting was the fact that the spread of STIs in general varied greatly between geographic areas. The lowest rates were <90 per 100,000 population, and the highest rate was 3,210 per 100,000 population. Although these numbers were high, they were considerably lower than the numbers for chlamydia diagnoses. The lowest rate for chlamydia diagnoses were 703 per 100,000 population and 6132 per 100,000 population. The highest numbers came from urban areas, with London having particularly high rates. This was attributed to the many deprived areas where the risk was higher due to at-risk groups known to be affected by economic and cultural factors, which facilitated high-risk behaviours.

The report further suggested that among individuals below 25, a reasonable estimation was that 16% of men were tested and 35% of women were tested. Based on this, it is not surprising that more women were diagnosed with Chlamydia than men. Overall, the percentage of young individuals tested for chlamydia in geographic areas demonstrated great variation. Thames Valley had the lowest diagnosis rate, but almost a fifth of the young population were tested for chlamydia. In contrast to that, the North East had the highest diagnosis rate, yet only 15% more individuals were tested than in Thames Valley.

Based on the above findings, it was recommended that more measures need to be taken to incorporate a wider distribution of chlamydia screenings in communities across the UK and that promoting education on the need for annual testing (or after a new partner) was essential to ensure that more individuals get tested.

Although it is unquestionable that more screening is needed, there is still a debate as to whether this is sufficient. One of the core problems with individuals not getting tested is the stigma attached to visiting a clinic, as well as cultural and economic factors that affect decision making in particularly vulnerable populations. Nevertheless, as the numbers suggest that screening has increased across the UK since the last report was published, at least it implies that the field is moving in the right direction. 

If you feel that you should be getting a Chlamydia test or indeed a test for any sexually transmitted infection then you can get a test at this online clinic, with results in under 24 hours:

If you are under 24 and you live in the UK and you are prepared to wait a while for your results then you can get tested he free of charge: