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Study aims to reduce sexually transmitted infections in men

University of Southampton

Researchers at the University of Southampton are set to launch a new study to help improve condom use and tackle sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among young men (16-25 years) in the UK.

STI treatment currently costs the NHS £620m a year and young people, particularly men, have been identified by the Department of Health and Social Care as an 'at risk' group for these types of infections.

Psychologists at Southampton, together with academics at the University of Birmingham, the University of Westminster, and Coventry University have been awarded approximately £1.5m over five years from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to investigate the best ways to promote correct and consistent condom use. Clinicians from Solent NHS Trust, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust and Barts Health NHS Trust are also involved.

Professor in Sexual and Reproductive Health at the University of Southampton and lead researcher, Cynthia Graham, comments: "Condoms are our main protection against STIs, but many things can prevent them being used effectively, such as problems with reduced sexual pleasure and the way they fit and feel. We hope to improve people's skills and knowledge of using this type of contraceptive, while in turn helping reduce sexual risk among young people."

The team has already developed a condom promotion programme which gives out condom kits to men and asks them to experiment with using the contents after they have undergone condom use education and training. The researchers now want to go a step further and explore whether men who go on to report enjoyable, correct and consistent condom use, after taking part in the programme, are less likely to contract chlamydia than men who haven't undergone the programme (i.e. standard care). The study will also examine whether the condom promotion programme is delivered most effectively online or via face-to-face education sessions.

Approximately 2,200 men between 16 and 25 years old - who don't currently use condoms during sex with casual or new partners - will take part in either the face-to-face or digital programmes, or will receive the normal, standard sexual health advice. Over 12 months, they will periodically be asked about their sexual behaviour, condom use experience and get tested for chlamydia - allowing researchers to compare and contrast the results for the three different groups.

Findings from the study should give health professionals important insight into how best to deliver the information young people need to improve condom use and reduce STI rates.

Professor Kevin Fenton, Deputy Chair of the NIHR Public Health Research (PHR) Programme's Prioritisation Committee, said: "This is an important area of research, following widespread public health concerns that men aged 16-25 are among those most at risk of STIs, with rates remaining consistently high among this age group.

"Interactive online training packages are an emerging way of encouraging condom use and hopefully this study will increase the evidence base in evaluating the effectiveness of public health campaigns delivered in this way."


Notes to Editors

  1. The University of Southampton drives original thinking, turns knowledge into action and impact, and creates solutions to the world's challenges. We are among the top 100 institutions globally (QS World University Rankings 2019). Our academics are leaders in their fields, forging links with high-profile international businesses and organisations, and inspiring a 24,000-strong community of exceptional students, from over 135 countries worldwide. Through our high-quality education, the University helps students on a journey of discovery to realise their potential and join our global network of over 200,000 alumni.

  2. For more information about National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Public Health Research programmes, please visit:

    The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is the nation's largest funder of health and care research. The NIHR:

    • Funds, supports and delivers high quality research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care
    • Engages and involves patients, carers and the public in order to improve the reach, quality and impact of research
    • Attracts, trains and supports the best researchers to tackle the complex health and care challenges of the future
    • Invests in world-class infrastructure and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services
    • Partners with other public funders, charities and industry to maximise the value of research to patients and the economy

    The NIHR was established in 2006 to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research, and is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. In addition to its national role, the NIHR commissions applied health research to benefit the poorest people in low- and middle-income countries, using Official Development Assistance funding.

    This work uses data provided by patients and collected by the NHS as part of their care and support and would not have been possible without access to this data. The NIHR recognises and values the role of patient data, securely accessed and stored, both in underpinning and leading to improvements in research and care.

  3. You can find out more about Psychology at the University of Southampton at:

For further information contact:

Peter Franklin, Media Relations, University of Southampton. Tel: 023 8059 5457 Email:

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