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Talking about links between sexually transmitted infections and infertility with college and university students from SE England, UK: a qualitative study

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posted on 2023-06-08, 17:59 authored by A Lauren R Goundry, Emma R Finlay, Carrie LlewellynCarrie Llewellyn
Background Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea are largely symptomless diseases which, left untreated, can result in serious complications including infertility. Fertility problems currently affect approximately one in seven couples in the UK and there is increasing demand for couples seeking reproductive technologies. Young people are at greatest risk of contracting STIs, therefore this study aimed to identify young people’s knowledge and beliefs about the link between untreated STIs and infertility. Methods Focus groups were conducted with participants aged 16–24 years old inclusive in college or university settings in the SE of England. Groups were quota sampled on the basis of age and gender. A topic guide was used. The data were analysed using a framework analysis approach. Results Ten single-sex focus groups were conducted with sixty participants: six groups of college students and four groups of university students. Participants were generally aware of the link between STIs and potential infertility and considered the discussion of this subject very relevant at their age. Knowledge about how and why STIs potentially lead to fertility complications was poor. The issues of blame relating to infertility following an STI emerged, although most participants did not think that access to free reproductive technologies after an untreated STI should be limited. Conclusions Young people would benefit from more education in order to improve their understanding of the long-term consequences of untreated STIs, such as infertility. Participants in our sample felt these were extremely relevant and important issues for them to understand alongside current education about STIs.


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Reproductive Health




BioMed Central Ltd.





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