Safe sex message missing South Asians in Britain

June 24th, 2009 - 12:02 pm ICT by IANS  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, June 24 (IANS) South Asians living in Britain aren’t keeping a condom handy when they lose their virginity, new figures show, prompting safe sex fears.

Around 45 percent of British South Asians, who include Indians, Bengalis and Pakistanis, didn’t have a condom handy the first time they had sex - a number that is considerably higher than the 23 percent of the British white population who were caught short the first time.

The evidence that safe sex messages are not getting through to British Asians comes from a new online survey by Fusion Condoms which polled over 2,500 Britons.

The poll by Fusion Condoms, which is owned by successful Indian-origin brothers Shandip and Ketan Shah, was linked directly to the British Department of Health’s ‘Condom Essential Wear’ website.

The figures, released Wednesday, come after the British government’s watchdog, the Health Protection Agency (HPA), warned this month that 21,000 of the estimated 77,000 HIV-positive people in Britain do not know they are infected.

The number of infections through heterosexual contact rose form 540 in 2003 to 960 in 2007 in Britain.

The new survey also shows that 60 percent of British South Asians have never taken up the offer of free condoms from their state-funded health clinic, compared to 50 percent of the British white population.

Worryingly, it showed that around 80 percent of British South Asians have never discussed sex with their parents compared to 65 percent of whites.

Fusion Condoms Managing Director Shandip Shah said: “It is clear that safe sex messages are not getting through to Brits, but particularly to the British Asian population. We must now find out why this is and deal with it fast.

“I suspect there are a number of different complicated factors at play as to why large numbers of British Asians are not using condoms, not receiving free condoms from their local health clinic and not discussing safe sex with their parents.

Shah called upon the British government, British Asian parents and role models to start to address the issue, adding: “What we mustn’t do is bury our heads and ignore it.”

Shah said the findings back up what he had seen while running his pharmacy: “I have consistently seen large numbers of British Asian teenage girls arriving at the pharmacy counter asking for the morning after pill.”

Within Britain, the incidences of sexually transmitted diseases such as Chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhoea in under-20s have more than doubled since 1995.

And nearly three percent of teenage British girls become mothers - the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe and very often the cause of later joblessness and poverty.

A 2008 survey by Ipsos MORI revealed that half of all under-25s don’t use condoms with new partners.

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