STI data: cause for concern

The number of syphilis diagnoses in 2016 was the largest reported since 1949 according to figures released by Public Health England (PHE) (https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/sexually-transmitted-infections-stis-annual-data-tables). Since 2012, syphilis diagnoses have risen by 97%, mostly associated with transmission in gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men (MSM). A hepatitis A outbreak continues to affect gay and bisexual men, the report says.

There were approximately 420 000 sexually transmitted infections (STIs) reported in England in 2016. Young people are particularly at risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Compared to those aged 25–59 years, STI diagnosis rates in 15–24 year olds are twice as high in men and seven times as high in women.

12% of all STI diagnoses were in gay and bisexual men. HIV positive gay and bisexual men are up to four times more likely to be diagnosed with an acute bacterial STI than those that are HIV negative or of unknown HIV status.

Dr Michael Brady, Medical Director at Terrence Higgins Trust, says: ‘The figures show unacceptably high rates of STIs. We’re facing huge challenges, such as the continued rise of syphilis and ongoing concerns around drug-resistant gonorrhea, and we urgently need to address the nation’s poor sexual health and rates of STIs in those most at risk.

‘Worryingly, the data shows that young people, black and ethnic minority communities, people living with HIV, and gay and bisexual men continue to bear the brunt of STIs and poor sexual health. We’re also seeing a noticeable gender inequality in genital warts rates, with rates declining faster amongst girls than boys – this clearly shows the need for equal access to the life-saving HPV vaccine.’

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