Sexually transmitted diseases, now more commonly known as sexually transmitted infections, are infections that are spread through sexual contact and unprotected sexual intercourse. Sexually transmitted infections can be passed on through oral, anal and vaginal sex. Some infections, including genital warts, can also be passed through skin to skin contact.

How common are sexually transmitted infections?

Sexually transmitted infections are very common. In recent years, the number of people diagnosed with an STI has increased significantly. The figure has increased year on year since the mid 1990’s and in 2008 a total of 399,738 new cases were diagnosed. Chlamydia is the most commonly diagnosed sexually transmitted infection in the UK but there has been a significant increase in the number of cases of genital herpes; between 2007 and 2008 there was a 10 percent increase in the number of cases.

Young people aged between 16 and 24 are the most commonly affected. This demographic accounts for only 12 percent of the population, however more than half of the cases of STIs in the UK are amongst this age group.

Examples of STIs

There are lots of different sexually transmitted infections but some are much more common than others. The most common sexually transmitted infections in the UK include:

●      Chlamydia

●      Gonorrhoea

●      Syphilis

●      Genital warts

●      Genital herpes

●      HIV

Who can get an STI?

Anybody who has intimate sexual contact or unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected person can develop a sexually transmitted infection. Some infections can also be passed on through sharing needles and having skin to skin contact with a person with an infection. Sexually transmitted infections are most common amongst young people because they tend to have higher levels of unprotected sex, however, people of all ages can develop infections. Sexually transmitted infections can affect people of all different ages, races and sexual preferences.

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