Sexual health campaign steps up gear

The One Life Centre in Park Road, Hartlepool. Picture by FRANK REID
The One Life Centre in Park Road, Hartlepool. Picture by FRANK REID

Public health officials in Hartlepool are stepping up efforts to protect people from sexually transmitted diseases.

Hartlepool Borough Council is working with partners to promote a safe sex message to men who have sex with other men.

The campaign aims to get across the importance of using condoms to protect people from infection and also the need to undergo regular sexual health checks.

Deborah Clark, Health Improvement Practitioner with Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “Unprotected sex increases the risk of catching STIs like HIV, gonorrhoea, syphilis, genital warts, herpes and chlamydia.

“Ideally, people should undergo a sexual health check every time they change partners or have unprotected sex but at least annually as many STIs do not have symptoms, especially in the early stages, and people may not know they have one.

“People often think of contraception as only being a way of preventing pregnancy, but wearing a condom is also the best form of protection against all STIs.”

The Terrence Higgins Trust says the MSM group is most at risk of being infected with HIV but increases in testing and other developments have seen a slight drop in cases.

The sexual health campaign has previously been aimed at young people as a group particularly vulnerable to a range of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

But campaign leaders say age is no barrier to STIs.

Another key part is promoting the importance of regular cervical screening to help local women reduce their risk of developing cancer.

People can access testing, treatment and advice, emergency contraception and free condoms from the Teesside Sexual Health Service which is based in the One Life Hartlepool medical centre on Park Road.

The service is free and confidential and patients do not need to see a GP before using it.

Appointments can be booked online or by calling 0300 3301122.