The Department of Family Medicine and Primary Care, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, HKU conducted the first sexually transmitted infection population-based survey in Hong Kong and found that the prevalence of Chlamydia trachomatis was high among young people and middle-aged females who reported having sexual experience in the past 12 months.
The Department of Family Medicine and Primary Care, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong (HKU) conducted the first sexually transmitted infection (STI) population-based survey in Hong Kong, found that the prevalence of Chlamydia trachomatis could be as high as 6% among the females aged 18-26 who reported having sexual experience in the past 12 months. The prevalence was as high as 5% and 4% among the males aged 18-26 and females aged 40-49, respectively. As the public awareness towards this disease is poor, together with the fact that the infection could be asymptomatic, even if they get infected, it might be unnoticed, thus no medical treatment would be taken, and further transmitting the disease to their sexual partners. The infection could lead to serious health consequences such as infertility, or even congenital blindness and death. The findings were published this February in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.
Chlamydia is a common bacterial infection caused by the bacteria of Chlamydia trachomatis, transmitted through sexual contacts with the infected. It is the most common notifiable STI globally. It is also the most common notifiable disease in the European Union and the United States. Nonetheless, none of the STIs is notifiable in Hong Kong, thus the situation of Chlamydia trachomatis infection is unknown.
This study has successfully recruited and tested 881 participants (response rate of 24.5%). The overall Chlamydia trachomatis prevalence was at 1.4%, similar to those of the western countries, but among the young (18-26 years) women and men who had sexual experience in the past 12 months, the prevalence could be as high as 5.8% and 4.8%, respectively in Hong Kong.
In addition, a unique U-shape prevalence was observed with peaks in younger (18-26 years) and older (40-49 years) women in Hong Kong. Dr William Wong Chi-wai, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine and Primary Care, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, HKU, who led the study says, “The U-shape pattern was also observed in human papillomavirus (HPV) studies in Hong Kong and it was speculated that many couples break up and seek for new partners in their later life resulting in more sexual partners and unprotected sex.” Amongst the women with sexual experience in the past 12 months, the risk factors of Chlamydia trachomatisinfection were: 25 times higher in younger age compared to the 27-39 years old; 9 times higher in those living alone and, about five times higher in those having partners who had travelled out of Hong Kong in the previous 12 months.
This research identified high prevalence of Chlamydia trachomatis among the sexually active young people and middle-aged females in Hong Kong. Routine screening for sexually active women and young people should be considered, in order to identify Chlamydia trachomatis early for prompt treatment and control the spread of Chlamydia trachomatis among the general population. The research team recommended that the government should strengthen the publicity and education of STIs to the relatively higher risk groups, such as the young people and middle-aged women.
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