Alcohol And STDs
Despite public campaigns in recent years to promote sexual health awareness and the importance of using condoms, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) still are on the rise in Britain. One study carried out in 2007 found that in the 12 years prior to the study, the rate of HIV and chlamydia infection in the UK had increased 300 % and the rate of syphilis infection was up 2,000 %. For long time, many people have suspected a link between our drinking habits in Britain, which are known to be excessive in some cases (of course, not everyone drinks too much) and the likelihood of people having careless sexual encounters and being exposed to STDs. We now have scientific evidence of this link.
Had One Too Many?
Drinking alcohol is very much part of our entertainment culture in the UK. For many people, enjoying a meal or a night out with friends isn’t really possible without a few drinks. There’s nothing wrong with this as long as we don’t drink to the point at which we are damaging our health or making risky decisions about our sex lives.
Research published in 2007 in the International Journal of STDs and AIDS found that our drinking habits are endangering our sexual health. The study focused on 520 patients at a sexual health clinic in England. Of the patients interviewed, 86 % regularly drank more than the recommended amount of 6 units of alcohol in one session. This qualifies as binge drinking according to British governmental standards. 76 % of the patients interviewed said they had had unprotected sex because they had been drinking. 29 % of the patients were diagnosed with a bacterial STD. All those who were diagnosed with an STD drank alcohol to excess. In fact, they drank 40 % more alcohol per week than the patients who were not diagnosed with an STD. Not surprisingly, in addition to finding that women who drink more are more likely to catch an STD, the study found that these women are also more likely to become pregnant by accident.
Another study, carried out by an independent advisory group on sexual health and HIV, found that Britain had the highest rate of STDs and teenage pregnancy in Europe. The report claimed there was a link between the spread of STDs and drug and alcohol abuse. The children’s charity UNICEF claims that more British children under the age of 15 have had sex than children of the same age in any other part of the world.
Addressing The Problem
These researchers claim that seeking to promote the use of condoms, limiting your number of sexual partners and abstinence from sex at an early age is not enough. They say the government needs to intervene and prevent people from drinking too much. Setting a minimum price for alcohol and banning cheap drinks promotions in bars and night clubs are just two suggestions. The young people interviewed by the researchers at the sexual health clinic said they wouldn’t have had unprotected sex had there been condoms available to them at the exact moment when they needed them. It seems that having condoms available free of charge from the GP, sexual health and family planning clinics is not enough, young people are still failing to carry condoms with them. Researchers have suggested that condoms should be available, for free, in establishments which serve alcohol and in taxis. They have also said that sex education in schools should be mandatory.
On A Personal Level
So how does all this affect you as an individual? Of course that depends on your drinking and sexual habits. If you struggle to control your drinking you must seek help from your doctor, whether or not you engage in promiscuous or risky sex. Making a rash decision after drinking alcohol is something that happens to many of us at least once during our lives. After a few glasses of wine, people who normally behave sensibly are by no means immune to ending up in bed with the wrong person or with no way of having safe sex, so…
Use condoms - Every man and every woman needs to be prepared. Get the condoms and always have them with you. There are plenty of ways to carry condoms discreetly in a handbag or purse. If a man refuses to wear a condom, or gets you into bed and then announces that he doesn’t have one – what does that tell you about the kind of guy he really is and how many times he’s likely to have had unprotected sex before? Do you really need to take a risk with someone so arrogant and irresponsible?
Drink sensibly - Intersperse your alcoholic drinks with water (it’s great for your skin!) and don’t accept drinks from unknown men or women unless you’ve seen the drink being poured yourself. Don’t leave your drink unattended and don’t mix alcohol and drugs. Although drinking on its own is enough to bring on risky behaviour, some women who have unprotected sex after alcohol may be doing so because their drinks have been spiked either with more alcohol or some type of drugs. Unfortunately, there are a few men out there who think this is an acceptable way of getting a woman into bed.
Learn more about signs of STDs, like bleeding after sex, in our STD forum.