The Health Education Authority has launched a campaign to try to persuade young people to stock up on contraceptives ahead of the millennium.

Project manager Katy Fitzsimon said the Christmas and new year holidays would disrupt sexual health services just as sexual activity reached a 'peak' .

An unpublished HEA survey of 554 16 to 34-year-olds found that 45 per cent of men and 30 per cent of women were planning to go to a party, club or pub to celebrate the millennium. Of those planning to go clubbing or partying, 9 per cent of men and 4 per cent of women rated meeting a new sexual partner as one of the most important elements of a good night out.

The HEA is distributing postcards and posters urging people to 'be prepared' and is carrying opening hours details of sexual health services on its website.