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Sexual health in the UK - statistics & facts

Sexual health refers to any element which affects a person’s sexual functions and reproduction, and therefore is an important part of physical and mental well-being. Certain sexual behaviors can impact on health with sexually transmitted infections (STI) and diseases (STD). In the United Kingdom (UK), all sexual health services are free to everyone at the point of use. These services can take the form of family planning, genitourinary medicine (GUM), or sexual and reproductive health clinics. In 2019, over 2.74 million individuals went to a sexual health clinic in England.

Prevalence of STIs in the UK

In England, the rate of STIs in 2020 was 562 cases per 100,000 population, that was a decrease from the preceding five years, although social contact restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 would have had an impact on the figure for 2020. Cases of gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, and herpes in England all experienced a fall in cases in 2020 compared to 2019. Over 161 thousand cases of chlamydia were diagnosed in England in 2020, accounting for over half of all STIs diagnosed in the country in that year. Furthermore, the rate of chlamydia in the UK was one of the highest in Europe.

Contraception use

Across the whole UK in 2018, the birth control pill was the most common method of contraception for women aged between 15 and 49 years, with 28 percent using it as their main method. While only a slightly lower share of women, 27 percent, used the male condom as their main form of contraception. Condoms are the most effective way of preventing the transmission of STIs. When compared to European countries, the UK has one of the highest condom use rates, only having a lower share of use than Spain and Finland.

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