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Syphilis: Cases in Scotland at 15 year high

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The figures showed that 96% of cases of syphilis The figures showed that 96% of cases of syphilis were in men

The number of cases of syphilis recorded in Scotland has reached a 15-year high.

Figures released by Health Protection Scotland found the rise was part of a general increase in all sexually transmitted infections (STIs) last year. There were 455 diagnoses of syphilis, which can spread to the brain if left untreated, a rise of 14% in a year.

Almost all of those diagnosed with the disease were men. The figures showed that 96% of cases of syphilis were in men - with 87% of those being found in men who had sex with other men (MSM).

‘During 2018, the overall incidence of infectious syphilis in Scotland was at its highest level since the implementation of the current surveillance system in 2002/2003, exceeding the previous highest level recorded in 2017. Using data recorded in clinics during the past almost one hundred years, this is the highest total recorded in men since the early 1950s,’ said the report’s authors.

Concern has been raised that those taking the the pre-exposure prophylaxis pill, known as PrEP are be at greater risk of other diseases if they stop using condoms as a result. However, as those using PrEP have to be tested for HIV in clinics every three months there is potential that infections which would not have been spotted are picked-up.

‘In July 2017, Scotland became the first of the UK nations to make PrEP available via the NHS to those who are eligible and at highest risk of HIV exposure given trial data which indicate its efficacy in reducing the incidence of HIV,’ added the report’s authors. ‘There are reports and public health concerns, however, that the incidence of STIs may increase if condom use decreases in the era of PrEP.’

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