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The University of Southampton

Southampton researchers review methods for the prevention of STIs

Published: 17 July 2008

Researchers at the Southampton Health Technology Assessments Centre (SHTAC), based at the University of Southampton, are investigating behavioural approaches for preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in young people.

Rates of STIs have doubled in the UK during the last decade, with over one million young people being diagnosed a year. Chlamydia, gonorrhoea and genital warts are among the most commonly diagnosed STIs. If not diagnosed and treated effectively they can lead to infertility and other serious complications. The risk of HIV infection also continues to be a problem.

Previous research shows that young people, particularly young women in their mid-to-late teens, are more likely to become infected, and that personal, social and economical circumstances can play a role in increasing the risk. Poverty, gender, ethnicity and which part of the country a young person lives in have also been shown to impact on rates of infection.

The research, commissioned by the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment (NIHR HTA) programme, is systematically reviewing the existing evidence around effective methods for helping young people reduce the risk and avoid STI infection.

Led by Jonathan Shepherd, the research team is assessing what methods of preventing STIs work, and which factors enable them to work, such as whether or not young people found them acceptable and meaningful. The team will also gather information on how much methods cost and estimate, using the available information and expert opinion, the long-term effects of preventing infection in terms of improving quality of life and prolonging life.

Jonathan comments: “Health services and other people working with young people have taken part in a range of activities to combat the spread of STIs, including providing information on STIs and how to avoid them; counselling; making condoms freely available, and teaching skills in how to use them.

“However, there is a need to summarise all this research so that the people who manage and work in the NHS, and others who work with young people, have good reliable evidence on what methods work and what is appropriate.”

To view the project details visit

Notes for editors

  • The HTA programme is a programme of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and produces high quality research information about the effectiveness, costs, and broader impact of health technologies for those who use, manage and provide care in the NHS. It is the largest of the NIHR programmes and publishes the results of its research in the Health Technology Assessment journal, with over 400 issues published to date. The journal’s 2006 Impact Factor (5.29) ranked it in the top 10% of medical and health-related journals. All issues are available for download free of charge from the website, The HTA programme is coordinated by the NIHR Coordinating Centre for Health Technology Assessment (NCCHTA), based at the University of Southampton.
  • The National Institute for Health Research provides the framework through which the research staff and research infrastructure of the NHS in England is positioned, maintained and managed as a national research facility. The NIHR provides the NHS with the support and infrastructure it needs to conduct first-class research funded by the Government and its partners alongside high-quality patient care, education and training. Its aim is to support outstanding individuals (both leaders and collaborators), working in world class facilities (both NHS and university), conducting leading edge research focused on the needs of patients.
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