BASHH responds to new Public Health England Infectious Diseases Strategy
12th September 2019
The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) welcomes Public Health England’s (PHE) newly published Infectious Diseases Strategy 2020-2025.
The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) welcomes Public Health England’s (PHE) newly published Infectious Diseases Strategy 2020-2025. The five-year strategy aims to improve PHE’s ability to prevent, detect, respond to and reduce the impact of infectious diseases in England.
The strategy identifies as a priority area the importance of eliminating hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis and HIV, alongside halting the rise of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in this country. To help realise this goal, the strategy sets out PHE’s ambition to continue to raise public awareness about the importance of using condoms, to encourage regular STI screening and to provide partners with data to help control the transmission of STIs and respond to outbreaks and incidents.
Latest available data shows that there were 56,259 diagnoses of gonorrhoea reported in England in 2018, a 25% increase compared to the previous year and representing the largest number of diagnoses since 1978. Syphilis rates meanwhile rose by 5% in 2018, with a total of 7,541 newly reported diagnoses. Cases of syphilis are now at levels not seen since World War Two.
These increases come against a backdrop of years of damaging cuts to the public health budget, which have placed significant financial pressures on sexual health services. Councils in England will have been deprived of £700 million worth of real-terms public health funding between 2015/16 and 2019/2020, following the latest £85m public health cut delivered by the Government in December 2018.
Commenting on Public Health England’s new strategy, Dr Olwen Williams, President of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV said:
“BASHH welcomes this new infectious diseases strategy from Public Health England and the recognition that sexual health should represent a priority area for the organisation in the next five years.
Recent years however have seen persistent and damaging cuts delivered by the Government to sexual health funding, jeopardising our ability to reverse the worrying increases in STIs that we have seen in recent years.
We call on the Government to therefore commit additional funding for sexual health as an urgent priority, and to take forward the development of a new overarching sexual health strategy, which was recommended by the Health and Social Care Select Committee as part of their recent inquiry into sexual health. The time for action is now.”
The strategy can be read in full here.