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Gonorrhoea cases reach record high in England

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Aurelia Foster,Health reporter

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The best way to avoid sexually transmitted infections was using a condom, the UK Health Security Agency said

A record number of people in England were diagnosed with gonorrhoea last year, annual UK Health Security Agency figures show.

Diagnoses rose 7.5% – from 79,268 in 2022 to 85,223 in 2023.

Syphilis, meanwhile, rose 9.4% – from 8,693 to 9,513, the highest number since 1948 – with more heterosexual men and women becoming infected.

Both have more than doubled in the past decade.

Overall, sexually transmitted infection diagnoses, including several different STIs, rose 4.7%.

Some of the rise may be due to an 8.3% increase in the number of people having STI screening – 4.6% up on 2019.

The groups with the highest proportion of people diagnosed with an STI were:

  • 15-24-year-olds
  • men who have sex with men
  • black Caribbean people

The best way to avoid STIs was to use condoms “consistently and correctly” with new or casual sexual partners, the UKSHA said.

‘Critical point’

Consultant epidemiologist Dr Hamish Mohammed said: “STIs can have a major impact on your health, regardless of your age, gender or sexual orientation.”

Untreated syphilis can cause lifelong complications, such as brain and nerve problems, while gonorrhoea can lead to infertility.

The British Association of Sexual Health and HIV said the rise in STIs was a “concerning indicator” of pressure on sexual-health services and called for a new strategy.

President Prof Matt Phillips said: “We find ourselves at a critical point for securing the viability of sexual-health services.

“From recruitment challenges, to public-health funding, to ensuring the right experts are supporting every clinic, the next government has an opportunity to change the tides and address these barriers, to ensure everyone has timely access to expertise to support good sexual health and wellbeing.”

Of the 401,800 new cases of STIs recorded last year, 194,970 – almost half – were chlamydia.

But the number of chlamydia cases remained stable compared with 2022 and fell compared with 2014.

Cases of genital warts continued to fall, which is believed to be due to the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.

Free STI tests are available from GP surgeries and sexual-heath and some family-planning clinics.

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