Screening for sexually transmitted disease

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The Independent Online
WOMEN at risk of a sexually transmitted disease known to be a major cause of infertility are to be screened in an effort to halt its spread, the Government announced yesterday, writes Jeremy Laurance.

Sexually active women under 25 and those over 25 who have changed partners will be offered a test for chlamydia, the commonest sexually transmitted disease which accounts for almost half of all ectopic pregnancies. GPs will be asked to inquire about the sexual histories of their female patients and offer the test, which can be conducted on a urine sample, where appropriate. All women seeking abortions and attending genitourinary medicine clinics, among whom infection rates are higher, will be tested.

Chlamydia is often impossible to detect until it is too late, resulting in infection, causing irreversible damage to the reproductive tract. If identified early, it can be easily cured with a single dose of antibiotics provided both partners are treated.

In Europe, screening is commonplace and has led to a sharp fall in the incidence of infertility. Tessa Jowell, minister for public health, said pilot screening programmes would be launched in Portsmouth and Wirral later this year.