The British government has said it is on track to roll-out a nationwide screening programme for chlamydia, the sexually transmitted disease which can cause infertility in both sexes.
So far nearly 80,000 people have been screened for the disease, which is difficult to detect but is easy to cure, following the launch in 2003 of the National Chlamydia Screening Programme (NCSP).
There has been a heightened concern in the medical fraternity about the rise chlamydia which is particularly common among young adults and teenagers.
Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacterium, Chlamydia trachomatis, which can damage a woman's reproductive organs. Even though symptoms of chlamydia are usually mild or absent, serious complications that cause irreversible damage, including infertility, can occur "silently" before a woman ever recognizes a problem.
Chlamydia also can cause discharge from the penis of an infected man. Chlamydia can be transmitted during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Chlamydia can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby during vaginal childbirth. Any sexually active person can be infected with chlamydia. The greater the number of sex partners, the greater the risk of infection.
As the cervix of teenage girls and young women is not fully matured, they are at particularly high risk for infection if sexually active. Since chlamydia can be transmitted by oral or anal sex, gay men are also at risk for chlamydial infection.
The increased incidence in the disease, which can be easily cured with antibiotics, is partly attributed to the fact that three quarters of infected women and half of infected men show no symptoms and have no idea they have the disease.
The government said the NCSP was now available in a quarter of health authorities and that nationally available screening should be achieved by 2007.
Tackling the top five sexually transmitted infections is a priority for government, especially chlamydia which affects one in 10 sexually active women, the governmenht said.
Since April 2003, 78,698 people have been screened and over 8,000 people have tested positive.