SAFE sex is still far from the norm in Swindon with more than 10 per cent of under-25s in the town diagnosed with chlamydia in the last year.
Although the number of cases reported in 2013 decreased by 37 from 611 in 2012 for a population of 24,929, it remains the most prominent sexually transmitted infection in Swindon.
According to Public Health England, 5,522 young people between 15 and 24 – 22.2 per cent of the age group – were tested for chlamydia; 10.4 per cent of tested positive.
This is compared to 8.1 per cent of the 15 to 24 population in the whole of England and 9.3 per cent, or 996 cases, in Wiltshire.
But Dr Ayoola Oyinloye, the Public Health Consultant at Swindon Council, said the high statistics were a sign of increased and regular testing.
Dr Oyinloye said: “Chlamydia continues to be the most commonly diagnosed STI in Swindon, as is also the case nationally.
“Fortunately, however, it is easy to be tested for and treated, if necessary. “Swindon has a successful track record in implementing the National Chlamydia Screening Programme through its proactive, targeted approach, which reaches those most at risk. “For example, the free self-administered test is easily accessible not only at the GWH and doctors’ surgeries, but also school health clinics, including the sexual health outreach clinics at New College and Swindon College, where testing kits are also available from vending machines.
“This helps to explain why the proportion of those who test positively, found to be 10.4 per cent last year, is higher than the national average. “High rates of Chlamydia detection demonstrate an effective screening programme and Swindon is among the third of local authorities reaching the nationally recommended level. “Raising awareness and making the test easily available is particularly important, as the infection often doesn’t display obvious symptoms. “However, if left untreated the condition can lead to long-term health consequences including infertility.”
Between January and December 2012, 5,784 of 15 to 24 year olds in Swindon were tested – 23.2 per cent of the age group – out of whom 10.6 per cent or 611 were diagnosed with chlamydia.
Common symptoms include pain when urinating, unusual discharges and, in women, bleeding between periods or after sex.
Dr Guy Rooney, medical director and sexual health consultant at the Great Western Hospital , said: “I’m really pleased to see that local people are making use of the free and confidential services we offer in the area. "Swindon only has higher rates because people are choosing to come forward and get tested – which is a good thing. Chlamydia is so common I would be more worried about areas with low rates, as that would suggest there are lots of people with Chlamydia in those areas who do not know.
"If left untreated Chlamydia can lead to long term painful symptoms and fertility problems. When people come in for a check up, it also gives us an opportunity to promote good sexual health, such as using condoms which significantly reduce the risk of catching or passing on Chlamydia or other STIs.
"We have seen a dramatic improvement in sexual health in Swindon. It may surprise people that we now have some of the lowest rates for teenage pregnancy and the highest rates for coming in and getting a check up. This is about staying healthy and we should congratulate ourselves…well done”
“Most people don’t notice any symptoms so you won’t know you have Chlamydia unless you get tested so if you’re sexually active it’s important you get tested at least once a year or when you meet a new partner.”
Sexually active under-25s should be screened for chlamydia every year and on change of sexual partner. The test is free and can be obtained by calling 01793 604038 or contacting your GP.