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Syphilis cases at their highest since World War Two

Sky News logo Sky News 04/02/2020 Emily Mee, news reporter

a close up of a doughnut on a pink blanket: Nearly half a million cases of STIs were diagnosed in 2018 © Other Nearly half a million cases of STIs were diagnosed in 2018 Cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are being diagnosed every 70 seconds, as campaigners say soaring numbers of cases should be a "wake up call" for the government.

A report by the Terrence Higgins Trust and the British Association for Sexual Health & HIV (BASHH) found diagnoses of syphilis are at their highest since World War Two and some STIs are going undiagnosed by "struggling" sexual health services.

The State of the Nation Report says nearly half a million cases of STIs were diagnosed in England in 2018.

Over the last decade, cases of gonorrhoea have risen by 249%, while rates of syphilis have increased by 165%.

Young people, gay and bisexual men, individuals from some ethnic minority populations and people living with HIV were found to be disproportionately affected.

Nearly half of all new STI diagnoses were young people, with gay and bisexual men accounting for 75% of all syphilis diagnoses.

© Getty

Some of the highest overall rates of STIs were reported in black Caribbean and black non-Caribbean/non-African populations.

Campaigners also warn inconsistent testing across sexual health clinics means some STIs, such as Mgen, are going undiagnosed.

Government spending on sexual health services has been slashed by a quarter since 2014.

Jonathan McShane, chair of Terrence Higgins Trust, says the government must take action to curb "spiralling" rates of cases.

"Local government has played a key role in improving sexual health but has been held back by a combination of severe cuts to their public health budgets and the lack of a clear national strategy," he said.

"This has resulted in the rates of some STIs spiralling and services struggling to cope with demand.

"The impact of this is being felt most by groups already facing discrimination and stigma who are shouldering the heaviest burden of new STIs."

He added: "The government must roll up its sleeves and get to work because the current state of the nation is simply not good enough."

Dr John McSorley, president of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, called for a "joined-up" approach to sexual health services.

"As this report highlights, building a clear and positive new vision for the sector and its workforce is critical," he said.

A Department of Health and Social Care Spokesperson said: "More people than ever are now able to access sexual health services and we strongly urge people to take advantage of this free, local service if they consider themselves to be at risk.

"Our new sexual and reproductive health strategy will be published this year."

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