STI’s in young people continue to rise despite increased sex education promoting the “Safe Sex” message

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

It’s likely that you will have been taught about “safe sex” in school and that you may have been given the impression that STIs are something that pretty much everyone gets at some point.

In 2017 Public Health England launched a campaign to protect young people from Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s) by promoting condom use. The launch was justified because rates of STI’s in young people remained consistently high despite increased sex education in schools promoting the “Safe Sex” message. So what has the effect of this campaign been? The most recent STI figures from the UK government show that rather than rates decreasing they have, in fact, increased and the highest rates are in young people. (There was a brief decrease during the COVID lockdowns when people were unable to meet in person but then rates increased dramatically afterwards.)

Number of new diagnoses of chlamydia, gonorrhoea, genital warts, genital herpes (primary y-axis), and syphilis (secondary y-axis) among England residents accessing sexual health services, 2013 to 2022

Number of gonorrhoea diagnoses by age group, 2013 to 2022

Key statistics include:

  • 50% increase in gonorrhoea since 2021.
  • 24% increase in chlamydia since 2021.
  • 15% increase in syphilis since 2021.
  • 8% increase in number of consultations at sexual health services since 2021.
  • 26% increase in STI diagnoses among young people aged 15 to 24 since 2021.
  • 21% increase in chlamydia in young people despite no increase in testing among this group.

These statistics tell us two main things:

    1. Encouraging use of condoms in young people does not decrease the rate of STIs
    2. Rates of STI’s decreased during lockdowns when sexual interaction was somewhat restricted (unless with someone they were married to or living with).

So, we see from this that using a condom does not make sex safe (promotion of condom use is actually likely to increase rates of STIs because people feel safer and so are more likely to be sexually active). The American government health advice (unlike the UK) makes it clear that it is possible to avoid STIs: “The most reliable way to avoid infection is to not have sex.” – this is known as abstinence and includes all forms of sexual intimacy.

STI’s are not just a part of life that we must live with, unavoidable like winter colds. We can protect ourselves and the best way to do this is to follow God’s design for sexual intimacy – by saving it for marriage.[1]

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

Genesis 2v24


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