Public Health England has just released new data on sexually transmitted infections (STIs) during 2014 and the news is a mix of good and bad. The data includes diagnosis rates in England, and diagnosis rates by gender and sexuality. The rate of a few STI strains has dropped slightly since 2013, however several STIs have increased in diagnosis in England as much as 33%.
As part of a series on sexual health, we’ll be going into details on the common STIs, erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation and how to stay sexually healthy.
We know the sheer bulk of data released by Public Health England is quite daunting, so we’ve picked and chosen relevant data to make it easier to digest for anyone worried about their risk of infection.
a) Total diagnosis 2014 - 260,774 (-1%)
b) Male diagnosis 2014 - 85,106 (0%)
c) Female diagnosis 2014 - 120,008 (-1%)
The rate of diagnosed chlamydia cases hasn’t altered much since 2013, but it is still the STI both males and females are most at risk of in the UK. Of the males diagnosed, nearly 33,000 of them were between the ages of 20-24, and over 25,000 were 25-34. Women are at generally higher risk of Chlamydia and from a younger age, with nearly 43,000 diagnosed cases in 2014 under the age of 19 and another 47,000 from 20-24.
Chlamydia is transmitted through any form of unprotected sex and can be passed along to a child from a pregnant mother, so it’s very important to get checked regularly. Find out more about Chlamydia, including information on treatment.
• Total diagnosis 2014 - 34,958 (+19%)
• Male diagnosis 2014 - 26,575 (+22%)
• Female diagnosis 2014 - 8,379 (+9%)
Even if gonorrhoea (previously known as ‘the clap’) isn’t as frequently diagnosed as chlamydia, it’s the fastest spreading STI in the country. Not only has the number of reported cases increased by one fifth, but since 2005 the total number of diagnosed gonorrhoea infections has increased by 98% (112% for men, 64% for women). Heterosexual men are most at risk from gonorrhoea, but note that males who have sex with males (MSM) diagnoses of gonorrhoea – despite being roughly a quarter that of heterosexual cases – is increasing exponentially (32% since 2013).
Symptoms can develop weeks, months or even longer after the infection. Many men and women don’t feel any symptoms at all. There’s plenty more information on gonorrhoea symptoms, causes and treatments available online.
• Total diagnosis 2014 - 31,777 (-2%)
• Male diagnosis 2014 - 11,889 (-3%)
• Female diagnosis 2014 - 19,883 (-1%)
The reports’ update on herpes diagnosis might look like good news, but numbers don’t lie and those numbers are high. It’s worth pointing out that this is the first time since 2005 that the reports of diagnosed genital herpes has dropped from the previous year, but the total difference between 2005 and 2014 is an increase of 83%. Herpes in MSM is the second least diagnosed – second to women who have sex with women (WSW) – but is the only demographic who have had an increase in cases since 2013.
Genital Herpes affects 25% of the sexually active population in the UK, which is low compared to the rest of the world, but still a dangerously high percentage.
• Total diagnosis 2014 - 70,612 (-4%)
• Male diagnosis 2014 - 39,349 (-4%)
• Female diagnosis 2014 - 31,251 (-5%)
Genital warts are probably the most consistent STI in the last ten years - the overall difference in diagnosed cases is only +4% since 2005. That said, it’s still the second highest number of diagnosed STIs in England, and while a very gradual decline in genital warts in England can be appreciated, the number is still so high that attention needs to be paid. The report suggests the risks to MSM STIs is growing faster than any other demographic - despite being a very small proportion of the overall results.
There are many different types of – and symptoms from – genital warts, from post-intercourse bleeding to cancer.
• Total diagnosis 2014 - 4,317 (+33%)
• Male diagnosis 2014 - 4,054 (+37%)
• Female diagnosis 2014 - 263 (-7%)
While syphilis in heterosexual men and women has stayed more or less consistently in the hundreds of cases per year, the worrying figure comes from the MSM demographic. Syphilis is the only STI significantly dominated by MSM, having increased 114% since 2005 and 46% since 2013. Although the cases are relatively low in the country, sometimes it’s trends that require attention more than the overall figure.
Syphilis can be treated easily if caught early, but later stages of the disease require more intensive treatment over several weeks.
By looking at the percentages it’s easy to assume you’re most at risk of Syphilis if you’re a man, or gonorrhoea if you’re a woman, but that data – which you can be sure will be leapt upon by fear-mongering journalists – is misleading without context. The raw data is available to anyone who wants to take a look here.
The one thing that’s clear from the results is that sexually transmitted diseases are not going away, and becoming aware of the problem is the first step to sexual health. Keep a look out on our blog for future posts in regards to sexual health, and how you can minimise your risk.