England is seeing record high levels of gonorrhoea and syphilis sexually transmitted infections, following a dip during Covid years, new figures reveal.
People are being urged to practise safe sex to protect themselves and get tested if they may be at risk.
There were 82,592 cases of gonorrhoea in 2022 – up 50% on the 54,661 recorded the year before, the UK Health Security Agency says.
Syphilis cases increased by 15% from 7,543 to 8,692.
The age group most likely to be diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) is people who are 15-24.
Some of the rise will be due to increased testing, but the scale of the surge strongly suggests that there are more of the infections around, says the UKHSA.
Condoms are “the best line of defence” it advises.
The figures show:
- There were 2,195,909 sexual health screens or tests carried out – 13% more than in the previous year
- Chlamydia was the most commonly diagnosed STI overall, with 199,233 cases recorded
- Syphilis cases reached the highest in any given year since 1948
- Gonorrhoea numbers were the highest since annual records began in 1918
Dr Hamish Mohammed from the UKHSA said: “STIs aren’t just an inconvenience – they can have a major impact on your health and that of any sexual partners.
“Condoms are the best defence, but if you didn’t use one the last time you had sex with a new or casual partner, get tested to detect any potential infections early and prevent passing them on to others. Testing is important because you may not have any symptoms of an STI.”
Richard Angell, Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, said cuts to sexual health services were making a bad situation worse: “Sexual health services and public health budgets have been cut to the bone.
“This was exacerbated and laid bare by last year’s mpox outbreak, which left sexual health clinics in the most affected areas unable to provide HIV and STI testing, HIV prevention and access to contraception due to the displacement of these core and vital services. Until sexual health is properly resourced – with an appointment easier to access than a – we won’t see the number of STIs heading in the right direction.”