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Syphilis, Gonorrhea Cases Show Sharp Increase In England Following STI Budget Cuts

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Cases of syphilis and gonorrhea in the United Kingdom soared following budget cuts on sexually transmitted infections (STI) testing.

The Public Health England (PHE) has revealed that in 2015, there were 434,456 cases of STIs reported. Gonorrhea was diagnosed in 41,1932 people, which is a 10 percent spike compared to figures in 2014. On the other hand, syphilis diagnoses reached a total of 5,288 cases, which represents a 76 percent surge since 2012.

Experts believe that the diseases have higher impacts on a particular group: men who have sex with men. Among the bisexual and gay men, the rate of gonorrhea cases surged by 21 percent.

The report also showed a reduction in the diagnosed chlamydia cases, despite it being the most commonly diagnosed STI. In 2015, 200,288 cases were reported, which represented a 4 percent reduction from the 2014 figures.

However, health experts warned that the drop might be due to the reduction in test and not in the actual number of cases. In 2015, only 32 percent of young women and 13 percent of young men underwent tests for STIs.

Natika Halil, the chief executive of Family Planning Association, said that there is a strong association between higher levels of deprivation and poorer sexual health. One of the signs is the high rates of diagnosed STI cases.

Halil added that local authorities should also increase their attention on what is happening in their areas of responsibilities and make investments in STI prevention services to help lower the rising numbers.

Dr. Michael Brady, Terence Higgins Trust's medical director, said that the findings showed there are still much more things to do in tackling the poor sexual health state of the nation and STI rates of the people at risk.

Brady stressed the need for both government and local officials to do everything they can to fund the needed sexual health services and make these tests not only accessible but also as simple as possible.

A sexual health crisis cannot be avoided if no investments are made in effective STI tests, prevention and treatment services. The crisis can also be avoided if young people are provided with not just mandatory, but also "high quality" Sex and Relationships Education in schools all over the country.

"The new statistics show STI rates are still very high among gay men and young adults. We need to do more to raise awareness about STIs and how they can be prevented, especially the effectiveness of using condoms," said Dr. Gwenda Hughes, PHE's head of STI surveillance.

The report was published (PDF) on PHE's website on July 5.

Photo: Steven Depolo | Flickr

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