Binge drinking leads to increased sexual health risk
A study, in the International Journal of STD & AIDS, has assessed the alcohol intake of patients attending GUM clinics in a large city in the south of England. It found a high rate of binge drinking in patients, and that excess alcohol consumption leads to increased sexual risk.
The study included 520 consecutive patients, who were asked to complete a questionnaire. This was compared with a matched cohort from the most recent UK General Household Survey.
Clinic attendees binged heavily; the median intake of alcohol was 13 units on a ‘usual night' and 26 units on a ‘heavy night', compared with six units in the GHS cohort. Around 86% of clinic attendees exceeded the Government binge drinking level of six units, and 345 (65%) GUM clinic attendees were fast alcohol screening test positive, indicating a dangerous level of drinking.
Almost one-third of participants thought that alcohol played a role in their clinic attendance and 77% had been drinking before sex with a new partner. The prevalence of binge drinking was increased in the 29% of attendees diagnosed with a bacterial STI (P=<0.003).
Nineteen per cent of women reported an unwanted pregnancy and of these 28% reported drinking beforehand.
It is a shame the study did not comment on the age distribution of the sample. If alcohol statistics are to be believed, not only do we need to offer young persons a chlamydia screening pack, but also details of the nearest alcohol clinic.
Standerwick K, Davies C, Tucker L et al. Binge drinking, sexual behaviour and sexually transmitted infection in the UK. Int J STD AIDS 2007;18:810-3Reviewer
Dr Richard Ma
GP principal, North London and staff grade in sexual and reproductive health, Margaret Pyke Centre, London