Experts call for greater focus on sexual health

5th July 2016

As new figures reveal worrying increase in gonorrhoea & syphilis

New statistics released by Public Health England (PHE) today has revealed another significant increase in the number of new gonorrhoea and syphilis cases being diagnosed across England.

According to the figures, there were 39,696 new cases of gonorrhoea and 5,217 new cases of syphilis in 2015, representing year-on-year increases of 11% and 20% respectively. Since 2011, gonorrhoea diagnoses have increased by 88% in England, whilst the increase in new syphilis cases has been 78% in this time.

These figures are worrying since in April 2016, PHE issued a national incident response following the continued spread of high level azithromycin-resistant gonorrhoea to the West Midlands and parts of southern England, including London.

Commenting on the figures, Dr Elizabeth Carlin, President of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV said:

The continued increase in new cases of gonorrhoea and syphilis is extremely disturbing and demonstrates the importance of ensuring that patients have timely access to appropriate specialist sexual health services.

The sustained rise in gonorrhoea diagnoses is particularly concerning, given the further spread of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhoea that was identified earlier this year. It is essential that we reverse these worrying trends as a priority in order to control infection and retain our ability to treat gonorrhoea effectively.

Condoms remain a mainstay in the fight against STIs and HIV and we recommend their use for sex with any new or casual partners. If anyone is concerned that they have been at risk of infection then please make sure that you have a check-up with tests for STIs and HIV.

Dr Elizabeth Carlin, BASHH President

Furthermore, whilst the data shows that there has been a small reduction (3%) in the total number of STIs diagnosed across England in 2015 - primarily due to decreases in new cases of chlamydia (4%) and genital warts (7%) in heterosexual individuals - record levels of new STIs are also being diagnosed in men who have sex with men (MSM).

In MSM diagnoses of new STIs grew by almost 10% between 2014 and 2015 and have increased by 69% since 2011. New cases of gonorrhoea (21%) and syphilis (19%) amongst MSM largely accounted for this rise.

The latest Public Health England data on sexually transmitted infections is available to view online here

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