Sexual diseases epidemic getting worse as Aids claims 10,000

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The worst epidemic of modern times has failed to alter the nation's sexual habits which are continuing to put the health of young people at risk.

Aids has claimed the lives of over 10,000 people in Britain but years of warnings about the dangers of casual and unprotected sex have gone unheeded. Sexually transmitted diseases, including Aids, are rising and there is no chance that target reductions set under the Government's Health of the Nation strategy will be achieved. Professor Michael Adler, of University College Hospital, London, Britain's leading Aids specialist, says blame for the failure must in part be laid on the last Government's agenda of family values and morality. Professor Adler, who is married to Baroness Jay, the Labour health minister, says attempts to withold information about sex from young people "have resulted in large numbers not protecting themselves against sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy".

Latest figures, published in the British Medical Journal, show the commonest sexually transmitted diseases - chlamydia and genital warts - are increasing. There is an inner-city epidemic of gonorrhoea, linked to poverty and mainly affecting gay men and people from ethnic groups. Professor Adler says: "The incidence of sexually transmited diseases as a whole has not declined and has even increased slightly."

Teenage conceptions rose in 1994, after falling between 1989 and 1993, and now stand at 8.4 per 1000 girls under 16 compared with the Health of the Nation target of 4.8 by 2000.

Cases of Aids and HIV reached their highest totals in 1996 with almost 2,986 newly reported infections and 1,862 people with the full-blown disease. Homosexuals in particular appear to be eschewing safe sex. The number of infections acquired through sex between men rose 11 per cent between 1995 and.

However, anonymous testing of blood from pregnant women and from patients at sexually transmitted disease clinics shows HIV infection is also rising among heterosexuals.