Latest rise in Sexually Transmitted Infections

Publish Date: 01/06/2012

Figures released by the Health Protection Agency show new sexually transmitted infection diagnoses rose by two per cent in England in 2011; However there was a slight decrease in the North West.

The Health Protection Agency highlight that gay & bisexual men remain disproportionately affected and more at risk of acquiring Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s)

‘In the North West, for cases in men where sexual orientation was recorded, 70 per cent (246/349) of syphilis and 39 per cent (1,025/2,636) of gonorrhoea diagnoses in 2011 were among men who have sex with men (MSM) and the number of diagnoses of STIs continues to rise in this group nationally’.

Dr Roberto Vivancos, NW Regional Lead for Sexual Health with the Health Protection Agency said: “It is crucial the work to reduce STIs continues. Improving awareness and encouraging safer sexual behaviour through health promotion and education is essential to helping prevent STIs. Coupled with this, ensuring easy access to sexual health services and STI screening is important for controlling the transmission of all STIs and needs to be focused on groups at highest risk.”

Sexually Transmitted Infections in England -2011

In England in 2011, for cases in men where sexual orientation was recorded, 75% (1,955/2,622) of syphilis diagnoses, 50% (7,487/14,992) of gonorrhoea diagnoses, 15% (7,483/51,352) of chlamydia diagnoses, 11% (1,301/11,931) of genital herpes and 8% (3,102/41,333) of genital warts were among MSM.

The number of diagnoses of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) reported in men who have sex with men (MSM) continues to rise. Gonorrhoea diagnoses increased by 61% in the past year (4,651 to 7,487 diagnoses), chlamydia diagnoses by 48% (5,045 to 7,483), genital herpes diagnoses by 32% (979 to 1,301) syphilis diagnoses by 28% (1,523 to 1,955) and genital warts diagnoses by 23% (2,528 to 3,102).

A significant proportion of STI diagnoses among MSM continues to be in the younger age groups with 34% of genital warts diagnoses, 24% of gonorrhoea, 22% of genital herpes and chlamydia and 13% of syphilis cases in those men aged 15-24.

In 2011, a new code was introduced in GUM clinics to further distinguish gonorrhoea diagnoses by site of infection, i.e. rectal or oral. Of the 7,487 gonorrhoea diagnoses in MSM 16% (1,222) were oral infections and 20% (1,474) were rectal infections although this is likely to be underreported.

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The North West

The Health Protection Agency figures show the total number of sexually transmitted infection (STI) diagnoses decreased for the second year in the North West. The number of new STI cases diagnosed decreased by nearly 6 per cent over the last two years with cases dropping from 58,154 cases in 2009, 56,023 cases in 2010 and 54,842 cases diagnosed in 2011.

However there is no room for complacency as the figures below show:

  • Chlamydia – highest number of cases in 15-24 year olds (2,482) and 25+ (724) in Manchester

  • Gonorrhoea – highest number of cases in Manchester (650)

  • Syphilis – highest rates in Manchester (101)

  • Genital Herpes – highest cases in Manchester (438)

  • Genital Warts – highest rates in Manchester (1,135)

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Why the rise?

Reporting of sexual orientation has improved in recent years, leading to a greater number of diagnoses being assigned to MSM than previously.

Men who have sex with men (MSM) continue to experience high rates of STIs and remain a priority for targeted HIV and STI prevention and health promotion work.

The simple message has to be ‘Wear a condom and get tested”

That’s the message being promoted by gay men’s magazine Attitude

In this month’s issue of Attitude which features articles on HIV & Sexual Health Dr.Christian Jessen says that basic myths and a lack of general knowledge are still common place among many gay and bisexual men  “We know people avoid getting tested, and it’s mainly fear or misinformation that puts them off “ he says.

Peter Boyle LGF’ Sexual Health Co-ordinator comments:“From these figures we can see that once again the number of cases of STIs amongst Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) are disproportionately high, and although there may have been a slight decrease in STI rates across the North West, Manchester has the highest rates of infections across the board. 

Some of these can be attributed to an increase in testing and diagnosis, which is a good thing, however new cases continue to rise amongst this high risk group, and it is now more important than ever to use condoms and lube for anal sex, and to get tested regularly.  Syphilis and Gonorrhoea can both be easily transmitted orally, and the presence of another STI increases the risk of HIV being caught or passed on”.

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