Today’s figures published by Public Health England show there were 468,342 sexually transmitted infections (STIs) reported in England in 2019 – a 5% rise on 2018.

The key statistics are:

  • 468,342 diagnoses of STIs in England in 2019 – a 5% increase from 2018.
  • 26% increase in gonorrhoea since 2018.
  • 10% increase in syphilis since 2018.
  • 7% increase in number of consultations at sexual health services.
  • 13% decline in chlamydia testing of young people since 2015 –  an increase of 2% in chlamydia diagnoses in this group since 2018.

Ian Green, Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, said:

'Today’s new STI figures clearly show the impact of the Government’s ongoing inaction and lack of vision for  improving the nation’s sexual health. Rates of sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhoea and syphilis are rising significantly while sexual health services are over-burdened and under-funded.

'The overall number of new infections is heading in the wrong way with a 5% increase in a year, including big jumps in gonorrhoea and syphilis diagnoses. There was a 2% increase in chlamydia diagnoses among young people since 2018, despite a 13% decline in the number of tests since 2015. All of this underlines the need for urgent action.

'There are clear inequalities in terms of the communities most impacted by STIs. This includes BAME communities, young people, gay and bisexual men, and people living with HIV. The data shows that black people bear a far higher burden of common STIs, with a 9% increase in STI rates among black Caribbean people in 2019. In the last four years gay and bisexual men have seen an 83% jump in chlamydia diagnoses. These inequalities aren’t new but there’s still a shocking lack of information about the impact of structural inequalities including racism, homophobia and transphobia.

'This data is for 2019 and so doesn’t account for the COVID-19 pandemic, impact of lockdown or social distancing. It’ll be some time before the impact of coronavirus is known – good or bad – but a pandemic is not a sustainable solution for tackling soaring rates of STIs.

'COVID has driven innovation in sexual health services with the welcome scaling up of digital services and STI testing by post. But digital services don’t work for everyone and we know digital poverty is a big challenge for many. That’s why a range of options for accessing sexual health services must be maintained – including proper funding – to avoid further entrenching sexual health inequalities.

'Coronavirus and lockdown were never the answer to the question of how to improve the nation’s sexual health and we need long-term solutions. Now, as people start to have sex again following lockdown, it’s vital services and access to testing and treatment are scaled up in parallel.'

On next steps, Ian Green said:

'The Government has committed to a national sexual health strategy to improve the nation’s sexual health, which has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. These new figures underline why this can’t be delayed any further. That includes the need for significant investment in public health to ensure sexual health services are accessible as lockdown continues to ease.

‘Coronavirus has had a big impact on all aspects of our health services, but it can’t be used as an excuse for the Government not setting out its vision for sexual health and moving us towards that vision. We have already waited too long for action and inequalities are deepening with marginalised groups bearing the burden. Enough is enough.'