Over 5,000 under-16s diagnosed with STIs in 2012

condomShocking figures released by Public Health England under the Freedom of Information Act show that children as young as eleven have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

If that isn’t bad enough, over 5,000 youngsters under the legal age of consent have been given diagnoses for a range of sexual infections in the last year alone.

The statistics show that 5,386 youngsters under 16 have required treatment for infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, herpes and various other conditions. Moreover, in the last three years there has been a staggering 16,707 children under 16 that have been diagnosed as having an STI – the equivalent of 15 children receiving a diagnosis each day in the country.

Children under the age of 16 diagnosed with STIs in England last year

(SOURCE: PUBLIC HEALTH ENGLAND)

Age    Boys       Girls
Under 13    16       58
13    23       167
14    124       994
15    491       3,448
Total    654       4,667

* 65 children’s gender was not provided and not included within the above figures.

In just a decade, the number of STIs diagnosed in children has more than doubled. In 2003, the number of reported cases stood at 2,474, so clearly there is major work to do from the government and health care professionals to halt this worrying trend.

In addition, last year there were 90 reported cases of children under the age of 12 being diagnosed with STIs and doctors fear the actual correct figure could be significantly higher than this. Some children may be too terrified or embarrassed about speaking to adults about their embarrassing problem, whereas some STIs can take months for symptoms to even appear.

For instance, genital warts may show up around two to three months after infection, but could take anywhere up to a year to appear, whereas chlamydia may not have any symptoms at all in some people, or could lead to infertility without sufficient chlamydia treatment.

Unsurprisingly, it is older children who have the largest number of STIs. In 2012, 10,318 children aged 16 were treated, whilst there were 17,810 aged 17.

Dr Gwenda Hughes, head of STI surveillance at Public Health England (PHE) commented, “Data on infections primarily transmitted through sexual contact are routinely collected, across all age groups, by PHE. Rates remain highest in under 25-year-olds and whilst often these infections can be simple to diagnose and treat, if left untreated they can have serious health consequences. Regardless of age, everyone should use a condom with new and casual sexual partners, which significantly reduces the risk of getting an STI. We also advise young adults to get screened for chlamydia each year.”

She added: “The National Chlamydia Screening Programme is in place in England ensuring access to free testing from a range of convenient locations. With regards to those under 13 years old, the number of infections reported each year is very low. In this age group, using the term ‘sexually transmitted infection’ is problematic as it is very rare for children to be sexually active at this age. Moreover recent research suggests most of the infections reported are not acquired sexually; and of the few that may have been, sexual abuse was implicated. There is national guidance in place for health professionals to follow in these cases.”

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