AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases are on the increase in the region, a senior doctor has warned.

Dr Richard Pattman, who runs the genito-urinary clinic at Newcastle General Hospital, said hospitals throughout the North-East were "being overwhelmed" by patients seeking specialist help.

Dr Puttman said he feared that more people were having casual sex with multiple partners, greatly increasing the risk of sexual disease.

Fly-on-the-wall television programmes showing young people sleeping around may have influenced standards of behaviour, he said.

"People watch them and think that kind of behaviour is the norm. What I would say is take care, your behaviour has consequences," said Dr Pattman, whose clinic sees about 9,500 patients a year.

Despite being only half way through the year his clinic has seen nine new HIV patients, the same total for the whole of last year.

Sexually transmitted disease rates are rising, but there have been particular increases in genital herpes, rising from three to 31, and chlamydia, increasing from 66 to 180 in three years.

Genital warts are becoming such a problem that one expert described the North-East as the "warts capital" of England.

The number of patients visiting a drop-in clinic in North Shields, run by the Newcastle hospital, has doubled in the past four years.

Dr Pattman said he was in touch with clinics throughout the North-East and North Yorkshire, and the message was the same from every area.

Apart from causing discomfort, sexually transmitted diseases could also effect the ability to conceive, Dr Patt-man warned.

"There are increasing numbers of people having difficulty in having children because of chlamydia infection."

Dr Pattman said that while condoms helped to reduce the risk of spreading disease, the safest approach was not to have penetrative sex with anyone other than a long-term partner.