On the 23rd June, Public Health England (PHE) released data on sexually transmitted infections (STIs) from 2014.
By now you should be aware of the STI situation in England and the UK - there is a lot of them. As we scoured the documents provided by PHE we learned that STIs in England have no intention of going away or even dying down. Analysing and simplifying information is one thing, but when it comes to specific STIs, what have we learned from this data?
Chlamydia - The Reliable Nuisance
Chlamydia is the STI people in the UK are most at risk of. With over 260,000 diagnosed cases in England alone in 2014, you’d be forgiven for thinking that people aren’t taking it seriously. This becomes more worrying when we see the data suggest that the rates of diagnosis have barely changed in ten years. While that means the problem isn’t getting much worse, it isn’t getting significantly better either and when dealing with STIs it’s safe to assume the glass is half empty.
If left untreated, chlamydia can lead to infertility in addition to the painful symptoms that you can find out here.
The Gonorrhoea Epidemic
Gonorrhoea spent much of the 90s being referred to as ‘the clap’ - often the butt of jokes. Today it’s the fastest spreading STI in the UK and the jokes stopped being funny. England had a rise of 19% in just one year; the majority of this coming from males having sex with males (MSM) and heterosexual women.
Not that heterosexual males should feel the risk doesn’t apply to them - the rate is still increasing within heterosexual men, but at a slower rate. Women who have sex with women (WSW) are the only demographic whose diagnosis rate has dropped since 2013.
The steep rise in MSM diagnosis suggests there needs to be some sort of awareness campaign out there, because the exponential rate at which the rates are growing means it could be a serious epidemic soon.
1 in 10 men and 1 in 2 women don’t even feel any symptoms of gonorrhoea so it’s best to have checks regularly so you can get treatment as soon as possible.
The Unencouraging Decline of Genital Warts
Genital warts are the second most common STI in the UK - the reason being they are easy to spread, and not everyone develops symptoms. The numbers are currently in a slow decline, but the figures are still in the several tens of thousands.
In general, heterosexual men are most at risk, but the rates since 2013 dropped. A decline in figures is always a good thing, but when there are still over 70,000 people in England diagnosed with genital warts, it’s still too early to call it a win.
There are over 100 strains of genital warts, some of which can even cause cancer, so make sure you get treatment if you need it.
The Slow Battle Against Herpes
While Herpes is certainly dropping in England, albeit at a significantly slower rate than other STIs are rising, the figures are still very high. It also doesn’t mean much when you consider the sharp increase in diagnosis in 2013. Once again, WSW figures are the lowest of all the demographics, and MSM come in second lowest. This isn’t representative, however, because MSM, WSW and heterosexual female diagnoses have all increased since 2012, while heterosexual male figures have dropped.
While heterosexual females are most at risk (since it’s more easily passed to women), it’s MSM diagnosis rates that show no sign of slowing down. There are several treatments available, so talk to a specialist if you show signs of herpes.
The Rise of Syphilis
The numbers in regards to syphilis are comparatively low, with only a few hundred diagnosed cases per year for WSW and heterosexual men and women. It’s understandable to dismiss syphilis as a minor problem since the numbers aren’t as high as their STI siblings, but the important thing to take notice of is the incredible pace at which the rates of diagnoses increased for MSM. While still a relatively low number now, the rate has more than doubled since 2010. The problem could easily grow out of control at this rate. If you are concerned you might have syphilis, find your local sexual health clinic to keep yourself sexually healthy.
So be sure to practise safe sex - the diseases may be more prominent in women or in men, but safe sex is the responsibility of everyone.