STIs increasing among gay men, according to PHE report

New statistics show that sexually transmitted infection rates amongst gay and bisexual men are spiralling across England.

A report published by Public Health England on 23 June gave a startling insight into the nation’s carefree/careless attitudes towards sex it seems, with to quote: “high levels of condomless sex” in general and “rapid” transmission of infections in HIV-positive men.

The report was compiled using the annual data for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and national chlamydia screening programme (NCSP), which has been released for 2014.

Although across all groups in England, the number of sexually transmitted infections actually fell by 0.3% from the previous year, to 439,243 new cases, public health officials are becoming deeply concerned about the rise in STI cases among men who have sex with other men.

“We are particularly concerned about the large rise in diagnoses among gay men. Health promotion and education to increase risk awareness and encourage safer sexual behaviour remain the cornerstones of STI prevention,” commented Dr. Gwenda Hughes of the PHE, in a statement.

“Ensuring easy access to sexual health services and STI screening is a vital component in the control of STIs,” Hughes added, stating that STI control and the reduction in the STI infection should be made the first public health priority in the UK.

The problem of STIs is unsurprisingly rife across young people aged 25 or under and gay men (gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men).

The Figures for last year depict a shocking 46% rise in syphilis infections, 32% increase for gonorrhoea and 26% in chlamydia.

Broken down into various STIs, the PHE report found:

  • Syphilis infections increased from 2,375 to 3,477
  • Gonorrhoea increased from 13,629 to 18,029
  • Chlamydia diagnoses increased from 9,118 to 11,468
  • Genital warts increased by 10% from 3,156 to 3,456

There remains a major worry regarding gonorrhoea due to the rise of antibiotic-resistant strains of the infection, making it tricky to treat.

Gay men are usually recommended to go for a HIV and STI test every year, or every three months if they are engaging in sex without a condom or with casual sexual partners.

Moreover, PHE advise that all sexually active under-25-year-olds should have a chlamydia test each year and also when they have a new sexual partner.

Dr Michael Brady, the medical director of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “The continued rise in both syphilis and gonorrhoea is a worry and evidence that we still have much to do to address the nation’s poor sexual health and rates of STIs in those most at risk.

“We should make better use of new technologies and approaches – local awareness raising through targeted social media based on the geographical breakdown of the data we are seeing today and an offer online testing – to reach those who are not accessing ‘traditional’ services.”

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