Image credit: iStock/itakdalee Image credit: iStock/itakdalee

High numbers of people in the South-West of England are being diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections (STIs), according to new research. Over 35,000 people were diagnosed with an STI last year, suggesting a lack of knowledge surrounding safe sex.

FPA, a sexual health charity, aimed to raise awareness of the importance of using protection when having sex during sexual health week (September 12th to 18th) as STI rates across the South-West remain high.

While there were 35,091 official diagnoses of STIs in this region during 2015, it is thought that the real number is much higher. This is because around two-thirds of people surveyed across the region admitted that they would be too embarrassed to take an STI test if they thought they had one.

Perhaps surprisingly, the age group with the fastest growing number of STI transmissions is the 45-and-overs. It is thought that this is due to a lack of knowledge surrounding modern forms of contraception.

Natika Halil, chief executive at FPA, said: "There is still a huge amount of stigma around STIs and sex, which is not helpful when we're trying to encourage more open conversations between sexual partners and increase condom use.

"The main problem is that we still do not have statutory sex and relationships education (SRE), which means many young people are not given important information about enjoying safer sex, or consistently taught skills like talking about condoms with a partner."

Other findings from the charity include the fact that only nine per cent of those who are sexually active in the region are able to talk to a partner about using condoms confidently.

Also, worryingly, just seven per cent learnt about dealing with instances when a partner puts pressure on them to have sex without using a condom.

Not all STIs present with symptoms straight away and so you may not realise that you are passing them onto someone else. It is better to be safe than sorry, meaning you should ensure you use protection and get tested regularly for STIs, especially if you have casual partners.