Condoms Should Be Free for Children as Young as 13, Health Watchdog Says

The independent body which produces healthcare provision guidelines for the NHS in the U.K. said approximately 435,000 STIs were diagnosed in England in 2015 and treatment cost the NHS was an estimated £620 million in 2014.

Councils in England have been told they should provide free condoms to children as young as 13 by health watchdogs.

The draft guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says condoms should be made more widely available, with free supplies for groups at "high risk" of sexually transmitted infections.

The watchdog said all councils should offer free supplies to those aged between 13 and 25, using schemes which allow teens to look up the nearest provider on their phone.

Dozens of local authorities currently fund such initiatives but NICE said every council should follow suit.

The watchdog said councils should also consider distributing free condoms to sexually active gay men, and to anyone who frequents sex clubs, The Daily Telegraph reports.

The independent body, which produces healthcare provision guidelines for the National Health Service (NHS), said approximately 435,000 STIs were diagnosed in England in 2015 and treatment of them cost the NHS an estimated £620 million in 2014.

The report's recommendations include providing condom schemes for young people up to age 25 that include advice, support and information.

Christine Carson, programme director of the Centre for Guidelines at NICE, said: "We know condoms can protect against many sexually transmitted infections including chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.

"The recent increase in rates of gonorrhea and syphilis among men who have sex with men has been attributed to high levels of sex without using a condom.

"If local authorities and other commissioners can work together to increase condom availability and use amongst high-risk groups we could significantly reduce the rates of STIs."

Between 2012 and 2015, syphilis and gonorrhoea rates rose by 76 percent and 53 percent respectively.

The highest rates of chlamydia, genital herpes and genital warts were found among young people aged 16 to 24, while the highest rates of gonorrhoea and syphilis were found in men who have sex with men.

Owen Brigstock-Barron, national program manager for Sexual Health, Reproductive Health & HIV at Public Health England, said: "With significant increases in preventable STIs like gonorrhoea and syphilis it is vital we make access to condoms as simple as possible."

The draft guidance is open for consultation until 16 September.