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According to a study published in 2000 by Ipsos-MORI, a leading UK research company, only half of adult men in the UK know what a GUM clinic does. 13% of men thought that a GUM clinic specialised in treating gum disease, while 6% of men questioned thought that it was a clinic that specialised in the treatment of the elderly.
There were also some misconceptions about how common certain STIs were. Almost half of the men asked in the survey thought that HIV and herpes were the most common STIs, when actually genital warts and chlamydia where far more common. Many men were also too scared to go to the doctor, because they thought that STI tests may be uncomfortable.
This research urged the Doctor Patient Partnership (DPP), the Men's Health forum and the UK government to actively work towards educating men about STIs. So, more than ten years down the line, can we honestly say that UK men are more aware about STIs?
The figures may lead you to think otherwise, as during the last decade the number of people with an STI has increased significantly. However, a lot can change during the course of a decade and social trends may also have lead to the increased number of people with STIs.
We know that at least one campaign has been successful and that's the government funded chlamydia awareness campaign. It's believed to have increased the number of chlamydia screenings, actually resulting in a 1% drop in STIs in 2010.
So does this mean that there should be more campaigns? Quoted by the BBC, Sir Nick Partridge, Chief Executive from the Terrence Higgins Trust believes so. Commenting on the latest government research on STI figures, he said that the government policies to combat STIs over the past ten years has expired and that it's important for the government to provide 'targeted and community based sexual health services and prevention campaign if we are to maintain the momentum in bringing the figures down.'
Awareness is the key to fighting the spread of STIs and therefore campaigns will never become redundant, but maybe there need to be more? Or, perhaps it's just a question of adapting these campaigns to be more effective in today's social climate.