Sexual health

Why is sexual health important?

Sexual health is a key public health issue that can affect people’s physical and mental wellbeing. It can have major impacts on population mortality, morbidity as well as wider wellbeing.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can lead to a number of conditions including; pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, infertility and cervical cancer.

Certain strains of STIs, including gonorrhoea, are showing increasing levels of antibiotic resistance, increasing the difficulty of treating these infections.

Who is affected by sexually transmitted infections? 

Anyone who has sexual contact with another person can catch an STI, even if they themselves are not sexually active. STIs can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, or sexual orientation. However, certain groups are more likely to be at risk from STIs, including:

  • young people (15 to 24-year olds) - they are more likely to be diagnosed with an STI
  • women - while STIs are common among both men and women, women are more vulnerable to STIs. 
  • men who have sex with men - the risk of transmission can be higher among men who have sex with men.

How can you prevent STIs?

To protect yourself and your partner from STIs, the following approaches can be taken:

  • using a condom - this can prevent many STIs, including HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhoea, from spreading
  • being aware of the symptoms of STIs and avoiding having sexual contact if any of these symptoms present
  • getting screened for STIs - if you present with symptoms and even if you don’t have any symptoms.

What is the local picture?

In Hammersmith & Fulham, the STI testing rate and diagnosis rate are both higher than the London average.

The rate of diagnosis for chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis have all increased over the past few years. However, the rate of HIV diagnosis has decreased over the past few years.

The majority of people who use STI screening are from White ethnic backgrounds. In Hammersmith & Fulham, the under 18 birth rate and under 18 abortion rate are lower than London averages. 

Downloads

Sexual health factsheet (pdf 202KB)

External links

10 Hammersmith Broadway (Chelsea and Westminster Hospital)

Guide to sexual health services (NHS)

Sexual and reproductive health profiles (Public Health England)