Cases of syphilis in Wales increased by 53% between 2016 and 2017, while there was a 21% rise in diagnoses of gonorrhoea over the same period, a new report by Public Health Wales found.
According to the report, sexual health clinics in Wales recorded 12,852 STIs in 2017, including: 6,920 diagnoses of chlamydia, 3,020 diagnoses of first episode genital warts, 1,422 diagnoses of first episode herpes, 1,190 diagnoses of gonorrhea, 214 of syphilis, and 86 of HIV.
‘Some people develop visible symptoms of infection while others don’t, so you could have an STI and not know it’ said Zoe Couzens, Sexual Health Lead at Public Health Wales. ‘You can catch an STI more than once, even if you've been treated for it before. You can avoid passing infection on to others by using a condom or dental dam for sex, including oral sex.’
Young people continue to be disproportionately affected by STIs. In 2017, the age-specific population rates of gonorrhoea diagnoses in SHCs in 15-24 year olds was 149.4 per 100,000, while in the population as a whole the rate was 38.2 per 100,000. Additionally, the report found that a high proportion of STI diagnoses are in men who have sex with men (MSM). In 2017, 65 per cent of all syphilis diagnoses, 34 per cent of all gonorrhoea diagnoses, and 48 per cent of all HIV reported in SHCs were in MSM.
‘Increases in STIs are usually related to changes in sexual behaviour in the population. Casual sex is now more available as people link up through apps,’ add Ms Couzens. ‘We would advise anyone who has unprotected sex to access testing for STIs, to protect themselves and their partners.’