According to the study, nearly half a million people were diagnosed with an STI in England in 2018 – a five per cent rise on the previous year – due to a lack of government action, paired with relentless funding cuts and widening inequality. Gonorrhea is up 249 per cent, syphilis is up 165 per cent, and the rates of chlamydia are up by six per cent.
Young people are disproportionately impacted, making up 48 per cent of all diagnoses, while gay and bisexual men account for 75 per cent of all syphilis cases. The charities behind the study are calling on the government to implement a new sexual health strategy to tackle the increase, and to reduce pressure on services nationwide.
Jonathan McShane, chair of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said in a press release: “This report shows that the nation’s sexual health is not in good shape and this must be a wake up call to the government to take action. We urgently need comprehensive action that can help to halt the rising tide of STIs. There needs to be a long-term approach to improving sexual health. An ambitious strategy, matched with proper funding, is the only way we can support people to have healthy and fulfilling sex lives.”
One of the major concerns of the study was the way in which the impact of STIs are being felt most by ethnic minority communities. Some of the highest overall rates of STIs were reported in Black Caribbean and Black non-Caribbean or non-African populations.
“The impact of this is being felt most by groups already facing discrimination and stigma who are shouldering the heaviest burden of new STIs,” McShane added, “yet very little has been done to tackle these widening health inequalities.”
Dr John McSorley, President of BASHH, echoed these views adding in the press release: “As this report highlights, building a clear and positive new vision for the sector and its workforce is critical. To realise this ambition, the government must now provide the leadership to ensure that a new national strategy is developed and implemented as soon as is possible.”