LONDON: Almost half a million new cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) were diagnosed in the UK last year, with young people the most affected, new figures released Wednesday show.
Infections were most prevalent among 15- to 24-year-olds -- particularly women -- the Health Protection Agency (HPA) said.
Women aged 19 and men aged between 20 and 23 are most at risk of contracting an infection, the HPA data showed.
The 482,696 new diagnoses recorded in 2009 represent a three percent rise since 2008, continuing an upward trend spanning a decade.
Chlamydia diagnoses increased by seven percent , from 203,773 in 2008 to 217,570 in 2009, while gonorrhoea increased by six percent, from 16,451 cases in 2008 to 17,385 in 2009.
STI rates were highest in cities, particularly in London boroughs, while rates were also high among homosexual men.
Dr Gwenda Hughes, head of the HPA’s STI section, said: ? These latest figures show that poor sexual health is a serious problem among the UK’s young adults and men who have sex with men.
These figures also highlight the vulnerability of young women.
"Many studies have shown that young adults are more likely to have unsafe sex and often they lack the skills and confidence to negotiate safer sex."
She said reinfection was also "a worrying issue", with around one in ten 15- to 24-year-olds diagnosed with an STI likely to become reinfected within a year.
"The numbers (of reinfections) we’re seeing in teenagers are of particular concern as this suggests teenagers are repeatedly putting their own, as well as others, long-term health at risk from STIs," Dr Hughes added.
The rise in infections can partly be explained by more sensitive testing, but is also down to unsafe sex, experts said.
The HPA said the figures also suggest the gonorrhoea bacteria may be becoming resistant to drugs used to treat it.
Professor Cathy Ison, a gonorrhoea expert at HPA’s centre for infections, said: ? The worry is that with we could see gonorrhoea become a very difficult infection to treat within the next five years."
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