Latest figures reveal huge rise in syphilis among gay men

Cases of syphilis among men who have sex with men have risen by nearly half in the past year, according to figures released by Public Health England.

The body released a report that shows “the impact of STIs remains greatest in young heterosexuals under the age of 25 years and in men who have sex with men (MSM)”.

It delivered a dire warning about the spread of syphilis and gonorrhoea among gay men in England – with a huge rise in both attributed to risky behaviours.

PHE notes there have been “large increases in STI diagnoses were seen in MSM, including a 46% increase in syphilis and a 32% increase in gonorrhoea.

“High levels of condomless sex probably account for most of this rise, although better detection of gonorrhoea may have contributed.”

Dr Gwenda Hughes, who leads STI surveillance at Public Health England, said: “We are particularly concerned about the large rises in diagnoses among gay men.

“In this group we saw a 46% increase in syphilis and a 32% increase in gonorrhoea. Gonorrhoea in particular is becoming harder to treat as new antibiotic resistant strains emerge.”

Dr Hughes continued: “Health promotion and education to increase risk awareness and encourage safer sexual behaviour remain the cornerstones of STI prevention.

“Ensuring easy access to sexual health services and STI screening is a vital component in the control of STIs.

“Effective commissioning is critical to improving STI prevention. Prevention work should continue to focus on people in the groups at highest risk of infection, such as young people and gay men.”

HealthExpress Independent Medical Advisor, Dr Hilary Jones said: “Self-testing kits must therefore be good for people who for whatever reason are reluctant to get a test from existing services.

“Talking to a sympathetic professional healthcare worker about any concerns, home testing itself and the interpretation of the results is still important.

HealthExpress currently offer a home sampling kit which can be sent for confidential testing at a laboratory, and provide online information on the subject as well as the opportunity for a consultation with a doctor online.”

PHE reminded people: “Men who have sex with men (MSM) should have a full HIV and STI screen at least annually or every 3 months if having condomless sex with new or casual partners.”

This piece was brought to you in association with HealthExpress.