FPA surveyed more than 2,000 people* across the UK. In Wales:
- 84% said they had never had an STI test – this was the highest in the UK
- Nearly one-quarter (24%) said their sex and relationships education lessons were too biological and not enough about what it is actually like to have sex and be in a relationship.
- One-quarter said it is easier to have sex than to talk about it.
Sexual health charity FPA is marking Sexual Health Week (12-18 September) by challenging people’s knowledge and attitudes around sexually transmitted infections and using condoms for safer sex.
FPA’s Chief Executive, Natika H Halil, said: “There is still a huge amount of stigma around STIs and sex, which is not helpful when we’re trying to encourage more open conversations between sexual partners and increase condom use.
“The main problem is that we still do not have statutory sex and relationships education (SRE), which means many young people are not given important information about enjoying safer sex, or consistently taught skills like talking about condoms with a partner.”
When asked about their own SRE only 5% in Wales said they learnt how to confidently talk to a partner about using condoms, among the lowest in the UK, and only 6% learnt about dealing with situations where a partner puts pressure on you to have sex without using a condom.
With nearly one-fifth of people (18%) saying they don’t enjoy sex as much when using condoms and 19% saying that buying condoms can be embarrassing, it is important to highlight ways to normalise buying condoms and make using them a more desirable option.
Ms Halil added: “Men can experiment with different kinds of condoms, including varying shapes and sizes, when they are masturbating to find which type feel best for them.
“This helps to make condoms an aid to pleasurable sex without the worry of infections, rather than something which creates awkwardness and is more likely to be abandoned in the heat of the moment because of a lack of practice and confidence.
“We also want to finally banish this ridiculous idea that it is taboo for women to buy and carry condoms – protecting yourself from infections and unplanned pregnancy is nothing less than a responsible health choice.”
FPA is using Sexual Health Week to go back to basics on STIs – to raise awareness of what infections are and how they can be passed on, and to give people information on accessing support when they need it. The charity is also busting myths about STIs and offering tips to health professionals to help them engage more with patients about their sexual health.
Ms Halil said: “Our survey drew out some really interesting differences between age groups – while the older age groups were generally more likely to report being in long-term monogamous relationships and not needing to worry about STIs or condom use, the education they received growing up tended to be poorer than the younger age groups.
“For older people who are embarking on new relationships in later life, a lack of quality SRE at schools and many years of feeling like sexual health messages are not relevant for them can result in a lack of awareness and confidence to safely enjoy sex with a new partner. We have certainly seen increases in STI diagnoses among over 45s.
FPA is also highlighting the testing options which are available, not just with different types of clinics and GPs, but online testing services, pharmacies and home self-testing kits.
Visit www.fpa.org.uk/SHW16 for more information.