Provide more free condoms to cut STI rates, NICE says

Health services and other areas that that cater for people at high risk of contracting STIs should make condoms and female condoms more available to help drive down rates of infection, NICE has said.

NICE has released draft guidance pushing for more widespread adoption of condom distribution schemes to help reduce rates of STIs.

Condom distribution schemes are schemes that provide free or cost-price condoms, female condoms, dental dam and lubricant.

The schemes should be set up in areas where people in high-risk groups – such as men who have sex with men and young people aged 18-24 – congregate or are likely to visit to receive health services.

They should be accompanied by supporting information including posters and leaflets advertising local sexual health services.

Sexual health services

Almost half a million (435,000) STIs were diagnosed in England in 2015, including around 200,000 cases of chlamydia. Syphilis and gonorrhoea rates have risen by 76% and 53% respectively between 2012 and 2015.

The Family Planning Association estimates that treatment of STIs cost the NHS approximately £620m in 2014.

Christine Carson, programme director of the centre for guidelines at NICE, said: ‘We know condoms can protect against many sexually transmitted infections including chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis.

‘The recent increase in rates of gonorrhoea and syphilis among men who have sex with men has been attributed to high levels of sex without using a condom.

‘If local authorities and other commissioners can work together to increase condom availability and use amongst high-risk groups we could significantly reduce the rates of STIs.’

Photo: iStock

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