One in four STI cases in England are in London, official figures show
by Ross Lydall
6th July 2016
Young Londoners who have unprotected sex are fuelling a rise in infections including a 15 per cent increase in gonorrhoea, figures showed today.
More than a third of the 118,774 sexually transmitted infections reported in the capital last year were in those aged 15 to 24, according to Public Health England.
It warned of a sharp rise in gonorrhoea, with men who have sex with men responsible for more than 70 per cent of new cases.
The figures revealed that London bucked the national fall in infections with a two per cent annual increase, although experts said the three per cent nationwide reduction in cases was due to a cut in testing.
People living in the capital were responsible for one in four of all STIs and almost half of all gonorrhoea diagnoses in England. Of the 20 boroughs with the highest STI rates, 18 were in London, headed by Lambeth, Kensington and Chelsea and Southwark.
Chlamydia remains the most commonly diagnosed new STI in London (47,291 cases, representing 40 per cent of all STIs), but there were also considerable numbers of cases of genital warts and genital herpes reported.
Dr Yvonne Doyle, London regional director for Public Health England, said: “Worsening sexual health is one of the biggest public health concerns facing London and it is very worrying to see another year where STIs have increased in the capital.
“Today’s figures show that too many people in London are continuing to have unsafe sex and put themselves at unnecessary risk.
“Rates of infection among young people are still increasing. We need to continue to engage with them and drive home the messages about safe sex, including using condoms, regularly being tested and avoiding overlapping sexual relationships, all of which will reduce the risk of STIs.”
Men who have gay or bisexual relationships are advised to undergo HIV and STI tests at least once a year, or every three months if having unprotected sex with new or casual partners.
Genevieve Edwards, of sexual health organisation Marie Stopes UK, said the reduction in screening was a “wholly preventable own-goal” that was likely to increase treatment costs.
She added: “These statistics should set alarm bells ringing about the availability of sexual health services for young people and men who have sex with men.
“When a drop in chlamydia diagnosis is due to a lack of testing rather than falling incidence, we risk losing all the ground gained by years of investment in the chlamydia screening programme.”
Natika Halil, chief executive of the Family Planning Association, said: “We are concerned by the increase in gonorrhoea and syphilis, particularly among men who have sex with men, and also with the considerable variation between different areas.
“There is a strong link between poorer sexual health — one sign of which is in higher rates of STI diagnoses — and higher levels of deprivation.”