Published: 22/08/2002, Volume II2, No. 5819 Page 8

The first phase of the national chlamydia screening programme is being rolled out following a 10 per cent rise in reported infections on last year.

The disease is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the country, with 71,055 cases diagnosed over the last year.

Although mainly a-symptomatic, chlamydia has been linked to ectopic pregnancies, cervical cancer and infertility.

Ten sites for the screening programme have been announced.

They follow two successful pilots carried out in the Wirral and Portsmouth. Around 75 per cent of the target group contacted was tested - women aged between 16 and 24 - and one in 10 were found to be infected.

Public health minister Hazel Blears said the screening will be supported by£1.5m new investment, although the rest of the country will have to wait.

The Department of Health said the pace of the roll-out across the rest of the country 'will depend on the availability of resources, including laboratory resources, trained staff and equipment'.

The first phase of the programme has been welcomed by HIV and AIDS charity the Terrence Higgins Trust. But Colin Dixon, director of national services, added: 'This programme is currently on a small local scale and we would like to see co-ordination on a more national level.'

Figures released last week by the Public Health Laboratory Service show that the numbers of people diagnosed with STIs are increasing - currently 6 per cent up on last year.

There was an 8 per cent increase in cases of gonorrhoea - to 22,685 cases - and the number of syphilis cases doubled to over 700 - due mainly to an outbreak among gay men in London and north west England.

Genital herpes and cases of genital warts were up six and two per cent respectively on last year's figures.

The chlamydia pilots will be run by the Wirral Chlamydia Office, Royal Cornwall trust, York Health Services trust, and primary care trusts in West Hull;

Camden; Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham; Portsmouth City;

Leeds; Nottingham City;

Southend on Sea.