Worrying statistics from Public Health England reveal that new sexual health infections are up 5%, whilst the Terrence Higgins Trust calls the news a ‘wake up’ call for gay men.

From a statement on the gov.uk website:

“New sexually transmitted infection (STI) diagnoses rose 5% in 2012 according to Public Health England (PHE) data published today (5 June, 2013), mostly due to improved data collection. However, the continuing high STI rates in England suggest too many people are still putting themselves at risk through unsafe sex, especially young adults and men who have sex with men (MSM).

“Chlamydia remained the most commonly diagnosed STI (206,912; 46%), but considerable numbers of genital warts (73,893; 16%) and genital herpes (32,021; 7%) cases were also reported last year. New gonorrhoea diagnoses rose 21% overall (from 21,024 in 2011 to 25,525 in 2012), and by 37% in the MSM population (to 10,754).

“Those aged under 25 experienced the highest STI rates, contributing 64% chlamydia and 54% of genital warts diagnoses in heterosexuals in 2012. Young adults are advised to test for chlamydia annually or on change of sexual partner, as part of the National Chlamydia Screening Programme to control the infection and its complications. In 2012, over 1.7 million chlamydia tests were undertaken and over 136,000 diagnoses made.”

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Lisa Power, Policy Director at Terrence Higgins Trust, said,

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“The rising numbers of almost every STI among gay men should act as a wakeup call to us all. Unlike heterosexuals, where most infections are in young people aged 15-24, gay men are most likely to get STIs in their late 20s and 30s and high levels continue into their 50s. This is due to differing patterns of sexual behaviour, and more frequent partner change.

“We need to remind ourselves that treatment as prevention works to reduce transmission of HIV, but it doesn’t do anything to prevent other STIs – and sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhoea and chlamydia actually increase the risk of HIV transmission, even when someone is on treatment. As such, condoms remain a key ingredient not just in protecting against STIs, but also in controlling the spread of HIV.”

“Gonorrhoea in particular has increased by a third in the last year in gay men and has tripled since 2009. In the context of new reports of drug-resistant strains of the infection, it is vital that gay and bisexual men use condoms and go for regular sexual health check ups to control the outbreak.

“On a more positive note, these numbers also highlight the success of improved testing for gonorrhoea, with throat swabs detecting many previously untreated infections. But if we are going to see these figures to begin to drop, we need local authorities to invest properly in prevention measures and testing for STIs. The national campaign from HIV Prevention England is promoting condoms and testing among gay men, but without sustained local investment alongside it cannot be enough.”