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We urgently need to address the nation's poor sexual health, says Terrence Higgins Trust, after Public Health England releases new STI statistics

New STI statistics show cuts are threatening sexual health

two naked men having sex

The latest figures published today from Public Health England (PHE) show there were approximately 420,000 sexually transmitted infections (STIs) reported in England in 2016.

This is down by 4% since 2015, when there were just less than 437,000 new diagnoses. However, syphilis rates are at the highest since 1949 with a 12% increase in the number of syphilis diagnoses between 2015 and 2016 and a Hepatitis A outbreak continues to affect gay and bisexual men.

Terrence Higgins Trust Medical Director Dr. Michael Brady said: "Today’s 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.

"In this climate of cuts to local authorities’ public health budgets, this is particularly concerning. Now is not the time to be scaling back sexual health services. Cuts to chlamydia testing for example are having a visible impact, with today’s figures showing that there has been a 9% decrease in the number of chlamydia tests taken.

"Worryingly, today’s 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. [1]

"Sex and Relationships Education will soon be mandatory in all schools, which is positive, but for this to have an effect on the disproportionate STI rates among young people, this must include information about STI testing and LGBT relationships – not just heterosexual sex and reproduction – and be supported by easy access to good sexual health treatment and prevention services for those who need them.

"It is also now essential that Public Health England, the Department of Health and local authorities ensure improved access to effective STI and HIV testing, treatment and prevention services. Otherwise, we cannot expect to address the ongoing sexual health crisis."

Read the government figures.

[1] 51% of all STI diagnoses were in young people aged 15-24 years. 18% of STI diagnoses occurred in the BME community and 12% in gay and bisexual men. HIV positive gay and bisexual men are up to 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with an acute bacterial STI than those that are HIV negative or of unknown HIV status. Genital warts diagnoses in girls aged 15-17 down by 72% since 2009. Only down by 62% in heterosexual boys of same age.