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Opinion, Comment & Reviews
  Brook to provide emergency contraception in advance
By Maxine Lattimer

Brook Advisory Centres across the country are advising teenagers to stock up on contraceptives including condoms, the pill and emergency contraception over the millennium period. Young people may get "carried away" under the influence of drink, drugs and the excitement of the New Year. Brook warned that sexually transmitted infections and unwanted teenage pregnancies could increase if youngsters do not take precautions over the holiday. A recent survey by Brook found that one in five people aged 16 to 24 had sex he or she later regretted after drinking. One in seven had unprotected sex and one in 10 could not remember having had sex after drinking. They are urging young people to be prepared for the New Year celebrations.

The Health Education Authority has voiced similar concerns, and have produced figures showing that one in 10 men said meeting a sexual partner on millennium night would be a top priority. The HEA figures showed that half of young men in the UK planned to see the millennium in by going to a pub, club, or party. The levels of unprotected sex are also shown to rise during the festive period with more people going for tests for HIV or other sexually transmitted infections.

Project manager Katy Fitzsimon said: "A significant number of young people will be out celebrating and looking to meet new sexual partners during millennium celebrations. Even though one of our campaign's messages urges people only to have sex if they really want to, our research shows that three out of four young people drink heavily at Christmas parties, and that about one in seven young people has had unsafe sex after drinking alcohol". There are also worries that the long holiday will mean doctors' surgeries will be closed and young people will not be able to get emergency contraception. Katy Fitzsimon said: "We're urging young people to prepare now so they're able to have safer sex if they meet a new partner during the festivities."

Alison Hadley, national policy officer for Brook said: "The last quarter of the year usually shows a higher conception rate among young people than at any other time of the year, so it is really important to make all our services as accessible as possible to young people to help prevent unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. We are asking young people to think ahead about their contraceptive needs over the extended holiday and make sure they are well prepared to party safely and enter the new millennium without regrets."

British Pregnancy Advisory Service is also providing emergency contraception before the emergency. Thirty-three BPAS branches around the country will prescribe emergency contraceptive pills to women who want to keep them to hand. Ann Furedi of BPAS said: 'It makes sense for women to be prepared for the morning after. You don't wait until you have a headache to buy aspirin - why should you wait until you've had sex to get emergency contraception?'

Women can book a local BPAS appointment by calling 08457 30 40 30.

BPAS website: www.bpas.org
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