Gonorrhoea cases hit record high in England – and men who have sex with men are being impacted

The number of people diagnosed with gonorrhoea in England in 2023 was its highest since records began in 1918, annual figures from the UK Health Security Agency shows.

The statistics revealed diagnoses of the sexually transmitted infection (STI), rose from 79,268 diagnosed cases in 2022 to 85,223 in 2023 – an increase of 7.5 per cent.

Across the board, diagnosises of STIs were up by 4.7 per cent in 2023 compared with 2022, with people aged 15 to 24, men who have sex with men and Black Caribbean people the most impacted.

In terms of GBMSM (gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men), gonorrhoea cases increased by 9.4 per cent (37,095 to 40,586), chlamydia was up by 8.2 per cent (18,223 to 19,716) and infectious syphilis increased 7.3 per cent (6,081 to 6,527).

As well as this, genital herpes cases also rose during the same period by 11.2 per cent and cases went up from 1,716 in 2022 to 1,908 to 2023, while genital warts increased by 5.3 per cent from 1,770 in 2022 to 1,864 in 2023.

The UKHSA noted some of this increase may be attributed to the number of people having sexual health screenings increased by 8.3 per cent (2,177,325 to 2,358,987) compared to 2022 and was 4.6 per cent higher than in 2019.

However, at the same time the UKHSA said the “continued increases in these STIs may also reflect ongoing high levels of transmission in the community”.

The best way to protect against STI’s is using a condom (Canva)

These new findings follow previous reporting that sexually transmitted infections in the UK are putting pressure on sexual health services

In January, the Local Government Association (LGA) said more than 75 per cent of council areas had seen an increase in cases of gonorrhoea and syphilis since 2017 and warned sexual health services are “at breaking point” as a result.

David Fothergill, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board said at the time that such statistics show services are “grappling with unprecedented increases in demand”.

“The Government needs to ensure sexual health funding is increased to levels which matches these stark increases.

“Councils have been working hard to encourage more people to access sexual health services and get tested more regularly to help improve detection rates and catch infections early.

“Investment in sexual health services helps to prevent longer-term illness and unwanted pregnancies, reducing pressure on our NHS and improving the health of people across our communities.”

The UK Health Security Agency advises that anyone sexually active should get tested for STIs, including an HIV test, every time they have sex with a new partner, or if they think they could have been exposed to an STI. 

Additionally, anyone sexually active should have an STI screen, including an HIV test, every year. The best way to prevent STIs is to use a condom. 

You can find STI testing and treatment services in the UK here, and you can search for free condom services in England here.

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