Published by BBC NEWS - 6th June 2023
  • Published
Person with condomImage source, Getty Images

England is seeing record high levels of gonorrhoea and syphilis sexually transmitted infections, following a dip during Covid years, new figures reveal.

People are being urged to practice safe sex to protect themselves and get tested if they may be at risk.

There were 82,592 cases of gonorrhoea in 2022 – up 50% on the 54,661 recorded the year before, the UK Health Security Agency says.

Syphilis cases increased by 15% from 7,543 to 8,692.

The age group most likely to be diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) is people who are 15-24.

Some of the rise will be due to increased testing, but the scale of the surge strongly suggests that there are more of the infections around, says the UKHSA.

Condoms are “the best line of defence” it advises.

The figures show:

  • There were 2,195,909 sexual health screens or tests carried out – 13% more than in the previous year
  • Chlamydia was the most commonly diagnosed STI overall, with 199,233 cases recorded

Dr Hamish Mohammed from the UKHSA said: “STIs aren’t just an inconvenience – they can have a major impact on your health and that of any sexual partners.

“Condoms are the best defence, but if you didn’t use one the last time you had sex with a new or casual partner, get tested to detect any potential infections early and prevent passing them on to others. Testing is important because you may not have any symptoms of an STI.”


What is gonorrhoea and how can you get it?

The disease is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae.

The infection is spread by unprotected vaginal, oral and anal sex.

Symptoms can include a thick green or yellow discharge from sexual organs, pain when urinating and bleeding between periods.

However, vaginal and rectal infections often have no symptoms.

An untreated infection can lead to infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease and can be passed on to a child during pregnancy.


How to get tested

There are several different places you can go to be tested for an STI:

  • A sexual health clinic (sometimes also called a GUM clinic)
  • Your GP surgery
  • A contraceptive and young people’s clinic
  • A private clinic

Some STI tests can be bought from pharmacies to use yourself at home.

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