STI diagnosis every 70 seconds in England, new report reveals

Some of the highest overall rates of STIs were reported in black Caribbean and black non-Caribbean/non-African populations

SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES: A HIV test kit (Photo: Chris Jackson-Pool/Getty Images)

THERE IS an STI diagnosis every 70 seconds in England, a new report from Terrence Higgins Trust and the British Association for Sexual Health & HIV (BASHH) has revealed.

The study, State of the Nation, which was released yesterday, found syphilis diagnoses are at their highest level since the World War Two, with cases rising by 165 per cent in the 10 years between 2008 and 2018, while cases of gonorrhoea are up 249 per cent.

There were nearly half a million (447,694) STI diagnoses in 2018, rising five per cent from 2017.

The organisations have called for a new national sexual health strategy to be implemented with clear targets to tackle soaring STIs and blamed “brutal” funding cuts, limited action by the government and widening inequalities for the rising diagnoses.

“The government must roll up its sleeves and get to work”

Jonathan McShane, chair of Terrence Higgins Trust

Government spending on sexual health services has been cut by a quarter since 2014.

Jonathan McShane, chair of Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “This report shows that the nation’s sexual health is not in good shape and this must be a wake up call to the government to take action.

“Local government has played a key role in improving sexual health but has been held back by a combination of severe cuts to their public health budgets and the lack of a clear national strategy. This has resulted in the rates of some STIs spiralling and services struggling to cope with demand. It’s clear to see that sexual health has been neglected for too long and has not been a priority for successive governments.”

Terrence Higgins Trust and BASHH have said action needs to be taken to get a grip on the threat of drug resistant STIs, which pose a real risk to the nation’s health.

Young people and black communities

The burden of STIs was found to disproportionally impact young people, gay and bisexual men, individuals from some ethnic minority populations and people living with HIV.

Young people account for nearly half of all new STI diagnoses (48%), with gay and men accounting for three in four (75%) of all syphilis diagnoses and some of the highest overall rates of STIs were reported in black Caribbean and black non-Caribbean/non-African populations. The report calls for a greater understanding of why this is happening and how this trend can be halted.

“The decision to disinvest in this vital public health area is nonsensical”

Dr John McSorley, president of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV

McShane said groups already facing discrimination and stigma who are “shouldering the heaviest burden of new STIs” as a result of the government’s failure to make sexual health a priority.

“The government must roll up its sleeves and get to work because the current state of the nation is simply not good enough,” McShane added.

Dr John McSorley, president of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, said: “At a time when we are seeing significantly increased demand from the public and record levels of sexual infection, including the spread of difficult to treat antibiotic-resistant strains of disease, the decision to disinvest in this vital public health area is nonsensical.

“As this report highlights, building a clear and positive new vision for the sector and its workforce is critical. To realise this ambition, the government must now provide the leadership to ensure that a new national strategy is developed and implemented as soon as is possible.”

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