STIs on rise as condom use falls

OLIVIA CARVILLE
Last updated 05:00 06/05/2013

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Kiwi women are ditching the pill and condoms in favour of longer term forms of contraception.

The use of long-acting arm implants to prevent unwanted pregnancies has skyrocketed more than 2000 per cent in Canterbury, but the shift has been met with mixed reaction.

As the popularity of long-term contraceptive devices increases, the need for the Emergency Contraceptive Pill (ECP or morning-after pill) has tapered off but so too has the use of condoms - which health experts believe could be contributing to the rise of sexually-transmitted infections (STI) in the region.

Family Planning's Canterbury figures show a nearly 2000 per cent jump in long-acting implants, a 10 per cent drop in contraceptive pill use and a 6 per cent decrease in the use of condoms from the 2009/10 to 2011/12 financial year.

The need for the ECP also slid down 7 per cent.

National Pharmac figures tell the same story.

The number of Jadelle implants climbed from zero in 2010 to 13,600 in New Zealand last year, while the use of the ECP dropped from 61,900 in 2010 to 55,600 last year.

Condom use declined from 99,700 prescriptions to 88,900.

The Canterbury District Health Board sexual health centre had seen an increase in some STIs, which generally indicated a decline in condom use, clinical director Dr Edward Coughlan said.

Family Planning national medical adviser Dr Christine Roke said Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARC) had been increasing in popularity worldwide and Kiwi women were following the trend.

The two most commonly used LARCs were the IUD and Jadelle arm implant.

"LARCs are a good option to consider because you don't have to remember something every day. Some women may struggle to remember to take a pill or after the odd drink may forget to use a condom," she said.

The contraceptive pill comes with a 3 per cent failure rate and the IUD and arm implant had a failure rate of less than 1 per cent, Roke said.

Women who leave abortion clinics with an IUD or implant inserted were 70 per cent less likely to return than if they left with the contraceptive pill, she said.

However, LARCs provided no protection against STIs and Roke said the national drop-off in condom use was "disappointing".

She urged women to continue to ensure partners used condoms as added protection.

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- The Press

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