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Study finds half of people who have unsafe sex would see GP over suspected sexually transmitted infection

The British National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles investigated the rise in unsafe sex and sexually transmitted infections.

Substantial changes in sexual behaviour in Britain have occurred over the past 30 years with a lower age of first sex and a higher number of partners reported. Policies aim to reduce risk behaviour for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and increase access to services to test and treat.


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The British National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal) investigates population (rather than service user) views and behaviours to inform service development. This study reported on sexual health clinic (SHC) attendance and hypothetical service preferences for those reporting unsafe sex from a survey of 15,162 people between 16 and 74 years.

Approximately 15% of sexually active men (n=1002) and women (n=1253) surveyed had had unsafe sex in the past year, for example condom-less sex with a new partner and/or sex with two or more partners without a condom. A total of 89% of men and 82% of women had not subsequently attended a SHC. However 39% of the women (highest in those age <25 years) had been tested for chlamydia in the past year, suggesting some engagement with sexual health services more broadly.

Of those reporting unsafe sex around half (50% of men and 54% of women) reported that they would attend their general practice if they thought they might have an STI, although those who had previously attended a SHC were more likely to attend. Effective, diverse service provision is needed to engage those at risk of STIs.


Tanton C, Geary RS, Clifton S et al (2017) Sexual health clinic attendance and non-attendance in Britain: findings from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3). Sex Transm Infect. doi: 10.1136/sextrans-2017-053193.

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