Students are being offered free alcohol in exchange for agreeing to be tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), under a new scheme being rolled out on campuses across the country.
Willing participants are given tokens which can be exchanged for alcoholic drinks under the scheme devised by the National Union of Students (NUS).
But press reports claim that some of the events have spiralled into drunken chaos as students have found ways to exploit the free alcohol offer to get more than one drink.
The scheme aims to cut rising levels of sexually transmitted diseases by trying to persuade more students to go for tests.
But medical experts, including the Department of Health, criticised the events for encouraging binge drinking.
Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe said: “The organisers are naive to think that when alcohol’s involved, students wouldn’t work out a way to abuse the system.
“Using alcohol to bribe youths into testing is also unsuitable as we’re trying to curb binge drinking not promote it.”
The scheme, which is part of the NUS’ Sexual Health Advice and Guidance campaign aimed at new undergraduates, has already been rolled out at students unions in London, Manchester and Birmingham.
One student, who attended an event at the Sports Cafe in central London, said hundreds got drunk.
She said: “There were loads of people who headed down there when they worked out there was free booze on offer. They weren’t interested in getting tested to see if they had a serious health problem, just how quick they could get drunk.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “We do not support offering alcohol as an incentive to test for STIs.”
NUS vice president Ben Whittaker said: “NUS encourages students’ unions to run sexual health campaigns in an appropriate and responsible way.”
In May a survey carried out by the student newspaper at Kingston University revealed that a fifth of students polled had had more than one sexual partner in a week and one in ten of the men claimed to have slept with at least two women in one day.
A third said they did not regularly use condoms with new sexual partners, leaving them at risk of STIs as well as unplanned pregnancies.
This news confirmed fears about student attitudes towards risk taking sexual behaviour.
In December last year researchers at an American university found that the levels of promiscuity in Britain were now higher than in any other western nation.
Also, according to a report released last year by the Health Protection Agency, casual sex amongst young people has fuelled the spread of potentially fatal STIs.
The report revealed that increased sexual activity has led to an increase in almost all STIs among young people since 1998.
Although 16 to 24-year-olds only make up twelve per cent of the population, half the country’s cases of STIs are found among this group, the report says.
Professor Peter Borriello of the HPA said casual sex is now “part of the territory, part of life” for young people.
Norman Wells of Family and Youth Concern said at the time: “The answer does not lie in yet more sex education and contraceptive schemes, but in honestly telling young people the only sure way to avoid being infected with an STI is to keep sexual intimacy within the context of a lifelong, mutually faithful relationship with an uninfected partner.”