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Plea for Cambridgeshire people to practice safe sex and get tested after rise in STIs

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A plea to make sure sex is kept safe and to get tested has been issued following a rise of sexually transmitted infection (STIs) post-lockdown.

With people able to mix following a loosening of Covid restrictions, there has been an increase in people testing positive for STIs, particularly from syphilis which can be difficult to recognise and where the first symptoms may not develop for at least a fortnight, meaning people might pass it on as they don’t realise they have it.

For that reason public health chiefs across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are urging people to get tested if they have any concerns to protect themselves and others.

Local people are being urged to practice safe sex as sexually transmitted infections rise.
Local people are being urged to practice safe sex as sexually transmitted infections rise.

Dr Graham McKinnon, consultant at sexual health clinic iCaSH Peterborough, based in Priestgate, said: “STIs are on the increase across the region.

“We would urge people to make sure they use condoms, and if they have any concerns following sex to get a test. They should also get tested when they have a new sexual contact.

“There is particular concern around syphilis, an infection that can be passed on through sexual contact including oral sex and which may not show any symptoms for weeks or months. This can have long-term health impacts on anyone who receives it, so it is vitally important you get tested to make sure treatment can begin early, and to stop it being spread to anyone else.”

There has been a sharp spike in syphilis cases in the East of England recently. Syphilis is curable, but if it is not treated there is a risk of damage to the nervous system as well as the heart, brain and bones.

Pregnant women can pass syphilis onto their unborn baby. Infection in pregnancy can cause miscarriage or a stillbirth.

Symptoms for syphilis can change over time. The most common signs are ulcers on the genitals or in the mouth, skin rashes and swollen lymph glands. Sometimes syphilis produces no symptoms and the infection is only discovered when a blood test is performed.

Some develop one or more of the following:

• Ulcers on the genitals, near the anus (back passage) or in the mouth

• A skin rash

• Swollen lymph glands, for example in the groin or neck.

Symptoms may occur as early as a week after infection, but sometimes it takes many months before the person notices a problem.

These symptoms usually pass within a few weeks, although they may come and go over several months before they disappear.

People are also being encouraged to make sure they use condoms when having sex to prevent the spread of all STIs.

Anyone with any concerns, or to find out more information, should contact their local iCaSH clinic in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to get tested - https://www.icash.nhs.uk/.

STIs are often mild and difficult to recognise and commonly cause no symptoms at all, meaning you can pass on the infection without knowing you have it.

Therefore, people should get tested for STIs when they have a new sexual contact or if they are concerned they might have an STI.

You can ring the clinic on 0300 300 3030 or order testing kits online by visiting: https://www.icash.nhs.uk/contraception-sexual-health/postal-self-test-kits.

Leading sexual health charity the Terrence Higgins Trust can also offer support and advice. Visit: https://www.tht.org.uk/.

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