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SEX DISEASE CLUBS BLITZ.

Byline: BY JONNY GREATREX

IT is the 'invisible' sexual infection that can leave women infertile - before they know they have it.

And it can lay dormant in men before being passed to new partners without leaving a trace.

But with cases of Chlamydia on the rise in the Midlands, health chiefs are desperate to halt its spread.

Now they are cutting out the need for embarrassing visits to the clinic by taking testing to young people - meaning getting checked out is as easy as going for a pint.

A team of volunteers are handing out do-it-yourself kits in Birmingham clubs, pubs and university campuses. The selfservice test can be completed discreetly in the nearest toilet before being handed back to staff to be sent off for analysis.

Young men and women who show signs of the disease will be told by either post, telephone or text message and will then be advised how to get treated.

The drive is particularly aimed at Vrst year university students, who are new to the city, and is being run as part of the Heart of Birmingham Teaching Primary Care Trust BeSure service. It offers testing to anyone aged under 25 as part of the National Chlamydia Screening Programme.

"Young people's student days often coincide with the time when they are most sexually active," a Trust spokesman told the Sunday Mercury.

"Although these services are available to all young people, it can be hard to Vnd them when you Vrst move to a city, particularly when academic and social life is so hectic.

"We are very pleased that Birmingham's universities have agreed that their students should be offered the chance to access this simple test."

Chlamydia is an extremely common infection with one in 10 sexually active young people having the condition. Carriers often show no symptoms and are unaware.

If left, it can cause infertility and long-term health problems but it can be easily treated with antibiotics.

Scores of volunteers are preparing to target drinkers in the city's favourite drinking holes to give out the kits.

Anya Court, 21, an English literature student at Birmingham University, is part of the team.

"This is a great idea," she told the Sunday Mercury.

"When I Vrst heard about the scheme I was a bit taken aback and thought it was promoting casual sex. But I soon realised STIs are still a taboo subject and this scheme means young people are more likely to take the test."

And Anya, who lives in Selly Oak, thinks fellow students are perfectly placed to dish out the kits.

"It is good that students are giving them out as I think people will be more prepared to give it a go," she added.

"Lots of people, particularly boys, will test themselves if their mates do so too, yet they probably would not go to a clinic.

"It will also hopefully raise awareness that chlamydia is on the increase."

While the numbers of sexually transmitted infections has fallen in the last 10 years, cases of chlamydia have risen by 141 per cent since 1997. Last year 9,079 people tested positive for the condition.

Heart of Birmingham Teaching Primary Care Trust says its BeSure programme also offers free, conVdential chlamydia testing at a number of clinics in the city.

To Vnd out more, visit www.besure.org.uk.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Sep 21, 2008
Words:557
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