University Freshers Urged To Wear Condoms As Gonorrhoea Cases Rise

One in 10 men and half of women experience no symptoms.
Students are being urged to wear condoms amid a rise in gonorrhoea cases
Claudia Dobrescu / 500px via Getty Images
Students are being urged to wear condoms amid a rise in gonorrhoea cases

If you’re looking forward to Freshers’ Week, UK Health Security Agency has a warning about having condomless sex, amid a record level of gonorrhoea cases.

The UKHSA is urging all those headed to university to wear a condom with any new or casual sexual partners and to get tested regularly, as gonorrhoea diagnoses rocketed to 82,592 in 2022 – an increase of 50% compared to 2021.

Young people aged 15 to 24 years old are the most likely to be diagnosed with STIs – last year, there were over 400 diagnoses of STIs each day within this age group.

The pressure to use protection also comes from the fact that gonorrhoea has become harder to treat throughout the years.

According to the World Health Organisation, “antimicrobial resistance in gonorrhoea has increased rapidly in recent years and has reduced the options for treatment”.

Antimicrobial resistance to gonorrhoea appeared as soon as antimicrobial medicines were first used.

“This has continued to expand over the past 80 years, affecting medicines such as tetracyclines, macrolides (including azithromycin), sulphonamides and trimethoprim combinations and, more recently, quinolones.” says WHO.

How to treat gonorrhoea

“Starting university can be an exciting time,” Dr Katy Sinka, Head of Sexually Transmitted Infections at UKHSA says. “But it is very important to be aware of the risks of catching STIs from condomless sex. STIs can have serious consequences and there are very high numbers of STIs at the moment – but there are some easy steps you can take to reduce your risk of infection.”

Though most STIs are usually easily treated with antibiotics, many can cause serious health issues if left untreated (one in 10 infected men and half of women don’t experience any symptoms). Chlamydia and gonorrhoea can cause infertility and pelvic inflammatory disease, while syphilis can cause serious, irreversible, and potentially life-threatening problems with your brain, heart, or nerves.

“Condoms are the best defence against STIs,” Dr. Sinka says. “If you didn’t use one the last time you had sex with a new or casual partner please do get tested even if you are not showing any symptoms, it’s free and confidential.”

Laura Domegan, head of nursing at Brook, the sexual health and wellbeing charity says: “If you have unprotected sex, don’t worry, get tested.”

She adds: “Anyone can get an STI, it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve had sex or what type of sex you’re having. STIs don’t always have symptoms, so don’t wait for them.”

Most areas have a home testing option too, so if you’d rather get tested at home you can. It’s that easy and accessible – order a kit online here.