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Health experts are this week repeating warnings that only condoms offer full protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancies.
Next week is National Condom Week (21-27 May) and messages are being issued nationwide about the importance of taking precautions during sex.
Although other forms of contraception protect women from unintended pregnancies, condoms are the only method of contraception which also protect both men and women against STIs such as chlamydia, HIV, gonorrhoea and syphilis other than abstaining from sex completely.
Cases of common STIs have increased over the last few years across Cumbria. In 2006 there were 1,047 recorded cases of chlamydia in Cumbria compared to 1,506 cases in 2012, a 44 per cent increase.
Jane Muller is NHS Cumbria's Associate Director of Public Health. She said: "It's important that people of all ages are aware that only condoms offer protection against both unintended pregnancies, STIs and HIV. It's not just women either; men also need to think about their own health and use a condom and access regular sexual health testing.
"Over the last ten years or so there’s been a noted increase in STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea both of which can cause serious problems if left untreated. It’s important that people don’t forget to heed warnings and using the necessary protection during sex. STIs are still a big threat to people’s health and although they can be treated easily, the problem is that many people don’t even know when the have an infection, and therefore continue to pass it on to other people.
“The best advice is for people to be careful use the necessary protection, and to get tested regularly.”
Anyone wishing to be directed to a GP surgery or clinic offering sexual health advice, treatment or testing or people wanting to know where to get contraceptive advice or where they can access free emergency contraception in pharmacies across Cumbria should call 0845 658 3131.
The Sexual Healthline: 0845 658 3131 is open 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday with an answer phone outside opening hours.
Calls are all charged at local rate.