Today, Public Health England launches a new ‘Protect against STIs’ campaign, which aims to reduce the rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among 16-24 year olds through condom usage. The campaign is the first Government sexual health campaign in eight years.

To coincide with the launch of the campaign, a new YouGov survey of 2,007 young people reveals current attitudes towards condom use and the barriers preventing this age group from using them.

Shockingly, the findings revealed that almost half (47%) of young people who have had sex said that they have done so with someone new for the first time without using a condom, and one in 10 sexually active young people said that they had never used a condom.

The new research also revealed that sexual health is a challenging topic for young adults to discuss, as 56% of men and 43% of women said that it is difficult to talk about STIs with friends. Furthermore, 58% said that if they had an STI they would find it difficult to talk to their sexual partner about it.

In 2016, there were over 141,000 chlamydia and gonorrhoea diagnoses in people aged between 15 and 24, in England and almost six in 10 (59%) of all those diagnosed with an STI were among this age group.

The campaign aims to highlight the risk of the serious consequences of STIs, which can cause infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID – an infection of the female upper genital tract, including the womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries), swollen or painful testicles and even meningitis. However, many STIs are symptomless, including seven in 10 cases of chlamydia.  Gonorrhoea is a particular concern because it is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics, and may become untreatable in the future.

Despite the rates of STIs remaining consistently high among young people, currently, twice as many young people say that the main reason for using condoms is to avoid pregnancy (58%), rather than to avoid getting an STI (29%).

The campaign aims to help normalise and encourage condom use in young people, as it was revealed that one in three (32%) young adults said that they have never seen a condom mentioned in sex scene on TV or in films.

Dr Sara Kayat, TV doctor and campaign supporter comments:

“Using a condom is the safest way to ensure that you avoid contracting an STI such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea.  As many STIs are symptomless, in particular seven in 10 cases of chlamydia, they can be serious if left untreated and even lead to infertility. As I tell patients in my clinic in every week, it’s just not worth putting yourself at risk by not using a condom.”