Public Health England plans to restrict the national chlamydia screening programme to women only, new proposals have revealed.
The proposals has been put out for consultation after a review found no strong evidence that chlamydia screening of both women and men had reduced the prevalence of chlamydia in the population.
An expert panel recommended the national chlamydia screening programme should refocus efforts away from preventing ongoing transmission to reducing harm from infection.
The current chlamydia testing policy in England recommends that anyone under 25 who is sexually active gets tested for chlamydia every year or upon change of sexual partner.
A report published last year concluded that opportunistic screening of young women should continue but men should only be tested if they are identified as partners, are at risk, or have symptoms.
In the new consultation document, PHE proposes moving away from opportunistic testing for all sexually active 15 to 24 year olds to focusing on women only in this age group ‘to prevent the adverse consequences of untreated chlamydia infection’.
The plans also call for reducing the time to test results and provide treatment, better ways of informing partners of people with the infection, and re-testing after treatment.
Women with chlamydia are at much greater risk of harm from infection, PHE said, and early detection and treatment decreases the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease.
Figures released by PHE last year showed the number of young people being tested for chlamydia in general practice fell by 11% between 2017 and 2018.
However, overall testing rates in young people only fell by 1%, due to a large increase in the number of people using kits ordered online.
In the consultation, which is open until 25th February, PHE said: ‘Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in England; in 2018, chlamydia infection accounted for 49% of all newly diagnosed STIs.
‘A panel of national and international experts was called together to review current policy, practice and evidence relating to screening for chlamydia.’
It added: ‘Informed by the review’s findings, PHE is proposing that [screening] policy should focus on reducing the harms of untreated chlamydia rather than aiming to reduce infection in the overall population.’