New figures show record levels of syphilis as experts highlight importance of increased focus on sexual health

8th June 2017

Data released by Public Health England (PHE) today have revealed another significant increase in the number of new syphilis cases being diagnosed across England. According to the figures, 5,920 new cases of syphilis were recorded in 2016, representing a 12% increase compared to the previous year, and meaning that rates of infection are now at their highest level since 1950.

Whilst it is encouraging that the overall number of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) has decreased from 2015, rates of infection remain high amongst men who have sex with men (MSM) who are still significantly more likely to experience poor sexual health outcomes. Despite a small decrease in the number of new infections amongst MSM in 2016, infections in this group remain 38% higher than in 2012, demonstrating the need for continued focus on improving outcomes.

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

The sharp rise in syphilis and the continued high levels of STIs seen among certain groups, including MSM remains a cause for concern and demonstrates the importance of ensuring that patients have timely access to appropriate specialist sexual health services.

Greater focus on reducing STI rates among these groups is required and we urge Public Health England and the Government to continue to address the high rates of sexual infection, particularly those for MSM. Doing so will help to minimise the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant infection and ensure the best possible outcomes for individuals and society.

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.’


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

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