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Our teens to be screened for sexual infection.

Byline: By Louise Redvers

Girls as young as 15 are to be routinely tested for sex infections.

A new service is being launched in the region to screen women aged 16 to 24 for chlamydia, a symptomless infection that, left untreated, can cause infertility.

Newcastle Primary Care Trust has been given the cash to run the free screening programme across Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland.

Rates of chlamydia have soared by 202% in the region in the last nine years and in 2004 doctors picked up 617 new cases in the North East.

A spokeswoman for the trust said: "We have been successful in being allocated just over pounds 500,000 in capital funding from the Department of Health specifically to develop a GUM service in Gateshead.

"We have been trying to do this for some time but, unfortunately, in the face of other priorities it has not been possible.

"Given this opportunity, and money which will be coming on line from April this year as part of the Government's Choosing Health programme, we now have the chance to develop a local service."

Nationally, between 5.3% and 11.2% of the sexually active population under 26 have chlamydia.

The highest rates of chlamydia are among 15 to 19-year-old females and 20 to 24-year-old males.

Genital chlamydia can cause considerable short and long-term problems, including pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), ectopic pregnancy and tubal infertility.

Of those developing PID, up to 20% may become infertile, 18% will experience chronic pelvic pain and 10% will have an ectopic pregnancy.

Part of the cash has come from a Government pledge to invest pounds 300m into NHS sexual health services.

Gateshead has secured pounds 500,000 from this to help set up a Genito Urinary Medicine (GUM) service, due to be introduced in April.

Despite having the highest rate of sexually-transmitted infections in the country, our region has the longest waits for genito-urinary medicine clinics.

Diana Mansour, deputy medical director and consultant in contraception and sexual health from Newcastle PCT said: "Chlamydia is on the increase in young people under the age of 25 and all of us as Health Professionals welcome the introduction of a Chlamydia screening programme for this high-risk group.

"In Newcastle with our party culture it is especially important because Chlamydia can occur in one in 10 young people without there being any obvious symptoms."
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 31, 2006
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