Fewer cases of STIs in the East of England but syphilis and gonorrhoea are on the rise

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Newly diagnosed sexually transmitted infections (STIs) fell by three per cent last year in the East of England, according to new figures published today by Public Health England (PHE).

The figures show that cases of STIs fell from 39,631 in 2013 to 38,393 in 2014, with the impact remaining greatest in young people under the age of 25.

Chlamydia is the most commonly diagnosed STI in the region, accounting for 45 per cent of diagnoses (17,372 cases), followed by genital warts (6,979 cases).

But the largest proportional increases in diagnoses between 2013 and 2014 were for syphilis, which rose by up to 16 per cent.

Similarly the number of gonorrhoea cases are on the rise, up by eight per cent.

Dr Gwenda Hughes, head of STI surveillance at PHE, said: “The stats published today show that too many people are getting STIs. Reducing this spread must be a public health priority.

“We are particularly concerned about the large rises in diagnoses among gay men. In this group we saw a marked increase in syphilis and gonorrhoea. Gonorrhoea in particular is becoming harder to treat as new antibiotic resistant strains emerge.

“Health promotion and education to increase risk awareness and encourage safer sexual behaviour remain the cornerstones of STI prevention. Ensuring easy access to sexual health services and STI screening is a vital component in the control of STIs. Effective commissioning is critical to improving STI prevention. Prevention work should continue to focus on people in the groups at highest risk of infection, such as young people and gay men.”

Young people are routinely offered chlamydia screening but only 14 per cent of young men and 35 per cent of young women were tested nationally in 2014.

Wide variation across the country was seen in rates of chlamydia testing and diagnoses – with only 29 per cent of local authorities reaching the recommended chlamydia detection rate (2,300 diagnoses per 100,000 in 15 to 24 year olds per year).

The PHE recommends:

* Consistent and correct condom use, reducing the number of sexual partners and the avoidance of overlapping sexual relationships all reduce the risk of acquiring sexually transmitted infections

* For people in the highest risk groups, getting screened regularly will lead to early diagnosis and treatment, as these infections are frequently without symptoms.

* Sexually active under 25 year olds should be screened for chlamydia every year, and on change of sexual partner.

* Men who have sex with men (MSM) should have a full HIV and STI screen at least annually or every three months if having sex without a condom or with new or casual partners.

For more information on sexually transmitted infections and the National Chlamydia Screening Programme data, visit www.gov.uk/government/organisations/public-health-england