Background Child sexual exploitation (CSE) diagnoses are difficult to make, often with no symptoms or signs. Previous reports suggested that sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a CSE marker but currently there is no evidence for this.
Aim To investigate associations between attendance patterns and STIs with CSE to refine clinic-based CSE risk algorithms.
Methods STI diagnoses among <16 year-olds during 2012 were extracted from clinics using the genitourinary medicine clinic activity dataset (GUMCAD). Clinics with >18 STI diagnoses (all STIs) were contacted for recruitment. Cases were defined as patients with a confirmed, bacterial or protozoal STI. Controls were defined as age and gender matched asymptomatic patients at the same clinic without STIs. An online data collection tool was developed to capture additional CSE risk factors on cases and controls. A protocol was created to aid CSE definition and stratification.
Results During 2012 in England, there were 12,819 attendances of young people aged 13–15 and 2337 STIs diagnosed: 1040 (44.5%) were chlamydia, 220 (9.4%) gonorrhoea and 67 (2.9%) trichomonas. Of these infections 998 (75.2%) were aged 15, 57 (4.3%) were ≤13 and 1188 (89.5%) were female. 44 clinics had >18 STIs in <16s, and 21 were recruited to the study.
Discussion Considerable numbers of <16 year-olds are diagnosed with STIs in GUM clinics in England. Reporting of all these to child protection services would create considerable burdens. Additional risk information from the online tool may provide important evidence of associations between STIs and CSE in order to better use limited resources.
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