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Sexual health: STI diagnoses rise in England

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The number of consultations increased by 7% The number of consultations increased by 7%

The number of new STI diagnoses in 2018 increased by 5% in comparison to 2017 from 424,724 to 447,694, a new report by Public Health England (PHE) shows.

The number of consultations at sexual health services, both in clinic settings and online, increased by 7% between 2017 and 2018, from 3,337,677 to 3,561,548. The rise in STIs is likely to be due to people not using condoms correctly and consistently with new and casual partners, and an increase in testing improving detection of the most common STIs.

‘The rise in sexually transmitted infections is concerning. STIs can pose serious consequences to health – both your own and that of current and future sexual partners,’ said Dr Gwenda Hughes, Head of STI Surveillance at PHE.

‘No matter what age you are, or what type of relationship you are in, it’s important to look after your sexual health. If you have sex with a new or casual partner, make sure you use condoms and get regularly tested.’

In 2018, gonorrhoea diagnoses rose by 26% from 2017, from 44,812 in to 56,259, . Gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (herein known as MSM) are at higher risk and over-represented, with almost half of cases diagnosed in this group.

Cases of syphilis also increased and have more than doubled over the past decade from 2,847 in 2009 to 7,541 in 2018. Chlamydia remained the most commonly diagnosed STI, accounting for almost half of new STI diagnoses. Chlamydia most commonly affects 15 to 24 year olds, who account for 60% of new diagnoses, an increase of 2% since 2017.

‘We’ve seen more and more sexual health services provided online in recent years and while this report seems to show it means more people are able to seek help for a suspected STI, we need to make sure these services are robust, fit for purpose and safe,’ said RCN England Director Patricia Marquis.

‘While the number of STI diagnoses has increased, many of these cases are preventable if the cuts to the public health grant for local authorities are reversed, and nursing staff in sexual and reproductive health are valued and given opportunities to develop their specialism.’

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