Sexual health charity the Terrence Higgins Trust has described latest figures showing rates of gonorrhoea among gay men up by a third as a “wakeup call”.
According to Public Health England, more sexually transmitted infections (STIs) were being diagnosed and treated than ever before last year, with improvements in screening particularly for gonorrhoea and chlamydia among young adults and men who have sex with men (MSM).
Increases in STI diagnoses were seen in men who have sex with men, including a 37% increase in gonorrhoea diagnoses.
Chlamydia and genital warts are 8% higher and syphilis diagnoses have risen by 5%.
Dr Gwenda Hughes, head of STI surveillance, said: “Ongoing investment in programmes to increase sexual health awareness, condom use and testing, particularly for groups at most risk, is vital.”
Lisa Power, policy director at the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT), said: “The rising numbers of almost every STI among gay men should act as a wakeup call to us all. Unlike heterosexuals, where most infections are in young people aged 15-24, gay men are most likely to get STIs in their late 20s and 30s and high levels continue into their 50s. This is due to differing patterns of sexual behaviour, and more frequent partner change.”
“We need to remind ourselves that treatment as prevention works to reduce transmission of HIV, but it doesn’t do anything to prevent other STIs – and sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhoea and chlamydia actually increase the risk of HIV transmission, even when someone is on treatment. As such, condoms remain a key ingredient not just in protecting against STIs, but also in controlling the spread of HIV.”
She added: “Gonorrhoea in particular has increased by a third in the last year in gay men and has tripled since 2009. In the context of new reports of drug-resistant strains of the infection, it is vital that gay and bisexual men use condoms and go for regular sexual health check-ups to control the outbreak.”
Health experts in the UK remain concerned by the increasingly aggressive nature of gonorrhoea, which is becoming harder and harder to treat, certain strains in Britain may eventually become untreatable within the next few years.
So far HO41 has not yet killed anyone, or spread outside of Japan.