Cheap Alcohol Causing STDs And Unwanted Pregnancies, UK
A study of 520 subjects in one genitourinary (GU) medicine clinic in the south of England published in the International Journal of STD and AIDS, found that of the subjects who answered the researchers' questionnaire, 86% exceeded the UK Government 'binge drinking' level of six units.
76% of respondents said that they had had unprotected sex as a result of drinking. Only 14% of men and 18% of women said that they always used a condom with a new sexual partner.
Of all the clinic attendees who consented to their medical files being accessed, 29% had a bacteriologically diagnosed sexually transmitted infection (STI). These same patients binged more heavily and drank 40% more on a weekly basis than those without an STI.
The authors write that "76% of the women had experienced unprotected sex as a result of drinking, and women who binged most heavily experienced significantly more unwanted pregnancies." They also found that women who binge drink have more sexual partners than women who don't binge drink.
The report also found that ninety-two women (32%) reported a pregnancy and 41 (14%), a termination. In those women reporting a pregnancy, 50 (55%) said it was unwanted, and of these 14 (28%) reported drinking before unprotected sex.
The authors argue that, as the UK moves inevitably towards a 24 hour drinking culture, it is vital that the infrastructure needed to keep these drinkers safe keeps pace and is adequately funded.
"The link between sexual risk and drinking too much alcohol is not the most original idea in the world, but we now have clear scientific evidence of the relationship. The government needs to reflect this link both in their sexual health and alcohol strategy - which at present seems not to link alcohol and sexual risk behaviour ," said Linda Tucker, one of the main authors of the study and a consultant nurse in sexual health and HIV. "Politicians need to tackle the issue of cheap booze and to have properly funded early intervention and treatment programmes in place,"
The editor of the IJSA, Professor Wallace Dinsmore, commented, "The young people interviewed in this study frequently said that better access to condoms at the time and place they were needed would have enabled them to practise safer sex. Young people can get free condoms from their GPs, family planning and GU clinics but it might make more sense to give condoms away in pubs, clubs and taxis."
Binge drinking, sexual behaviour and sexually transmitted infection in the UK by *K Standerwick, C Davies, L Tucker and Nick Sheron is published in the December 2007 issue (Vol. 18) of the International Journal of STD & AIDS. The article is available free on the RSM Press website.
The International Journal of STD & AIDS is published every month by the Royal Society of Medicine. It has full editorial independence of the RSM. It is the official journal of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) and the International Union against Sexually Transmitted Infections (IUSTI)
The editor-in-Chief is Professor Wallace Dinsmore.
Linda Tucker and Wallace Dinsmore are available for comment.
Founded in 1805, the Royal Society of Medicine is an independent organisation that promotes the exchange of knowledge, information and ideas in medical science and continued improvement in human health. http://www.rsm.ac.uk Registered Charity No. 206219
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