Figures released today show that cases of syphilis are up by 20% and gonorrhoea has increased by 22% across England.
The official statistics for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) found 7,137 cases of syphilis and nearly 44,676 cases of gonorrhoea were reported to Public Health England (PHE).
‘This Government is presiding over a national crisis in sexual health, caused in large part by the decision to implement year-on-year cuts to the public health grant which funds sexual health services,’ said Deborah Gold, chief executive of the National Aids Trust.
‘We urgently need to ensure that there is parity of esteem between sexual health services and all other healthcare, significantly increase public health funding, improve timely access to high quality sexual health services and increase substantially the numbers of STI tests taken by people at risk.’
The impacts of the cuts are being felt disproportionately by people in black and minority ethnicity (BME) communities, young people, and men who have sex with men – with the latter taking up 78% of new syphilis cases.
Chlamydia is the most prevalent STI, with more than 200,000 cases being reported in 2017 – which was nearly half of all STI diagnoses and roughly 126,00 cases were in 15-24 year olds.
Only two months ago the first case of super-gonorrhoea was reported in the UK in a man who was thought to have contracted the disease while in South East Asia. This case was particularly worrying as the strand was resistant to all known treatments.
However, testing in clinics has fallen by 61% since 2015, which may indicate a reduction in clinic resources or a rise in home testing kits. ‘Consistent and correct condom use with new and casual partners is the best defence against STIs, and if you are at risk, regular check-ups are essential to enable early diagnosis and treatment,’ said Gwenda Hughes, consultant scientist and head to sexually transmitted infection section at PHE.