Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Chlamydia test 'not cost effective'

More than 6,000 men and women last year were diagnosed with chlamydia, an infection which can lead to ectopic pregnancies

A national screening campaign for a common sexually transmitted infection that can cause infertility is not cost effective, academics found.

More than 6,000 men and women last year were diagnosed with chlamydia - a silent infection with no symptoms that can remain undetected, untreated, and lead to complications such as ectopic pregnancies.

But Ireland's small population and the strain already on the health service means a screening programme would not be cost effective, researchers said.

Dr Emer O'Connell, consultant in public health medicine, said screening for chlamydia is available in many countries. "However, some countries such as Australia are reviewing the effectiveness of this measure," she said.

"In Ireland, due to our small population and the strain already on our health service, a screening programme for chlamydia would not be cost effective because it would be difficult to achieve the necessary coverage levels to reduce the level of infection."

Chlamydia is the most commonly reported bacterial STI in Ireland, with the highest numbers reported in patients in their 20s. The number of cases has soared from 1,000 in 1997, to 3,353 in 2005, 5,781 in 2009 and 6,008 by 2011 - accounting for more than half of all STIs reported.

More than 6,000 people took part in the study, carried out by researchers from NUI Galway, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and the Health Service Executive (HSE). It was funded by the HSE's Health Protection Surveillance Centre and supported by the Health Research Board.

Separately, the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI) policy group said improving, promoting and protecting people's sexual health will have major benefits for the overall health and wellbeing of the nation.

Professor Colm Bergin, co-chair of the RCPI group, said: "What we're hoping to see is that our policy statements provide impetus for engagement with government and policy makers, so that we can all see Ireland benefit from a comprehensive national sexual health programme."

The reports were launched as part of sexual health awareness week, which runs until Thursday.

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