STI Crisis In UK
The idea of a sexual health crisis is one that may pass us by in modern media. There are so many concerns about NHS cuts and more savory health issues that we could ignore talk of syphilis. Warnings of a sexual health crisis can also seem out of place beside figures of lower chlamydia rates.
If chlamydia diagnoses and other incidences of STIs are down, how can the nation be reaching crisis point? The answer to this issue comes in two important factors. First, not all sexually transmitted diseases are declining. Second, just because they are not diagnosed doesn’t mean that they are not there.
We May Think That STI Cases Are Falling, But Syphilis And Gonorrhoea Are On The Rise
A recently published report from Public Health England shows that there were large increases in both syphilis and gonorrhea in 2015. The former rose by 20% compared to 2014 figures and the latter by 11%. In fact, syphilis has increased by 76% since 2012 and gonorrhea are not far behind at 53%.
This is a shocking development that shows that the situation for these diseases is out of control. There is a lack of STI testing, treatment and education and what is available is clearly ineffective. Young heterosexual couples are having promiscuous unprotected sex and do not understand the need for the STD testing. Some that do and receive one of these many diagnoses do not inform their partners.
One of the biggest areas of concern is with men who have sex with other men. We tend to refer to this group as MSMs for simplicity. Some media outlets tend to talk about the risk of syphilis and gonorrhea epidemic on gay and bisexual men.
While this is true, it simplifies matters into neat pigeonholes. Some MSMs don’t identify as gay or bisexual that are at great risk. MSMs accounted for 54% of gonorrhea diagnoses and 79% of syphilis diagnoses. The main issue appears to anal sex without a condom, but there is the issue of oral transmission too.
A Drop In STI Testing Means That Numbers Could Be Falling For The Wrong Reason
Next, we come to the biggest concern with sexual health and STD testing. Cases can only be diagnosed and registered is there are the means to do so. Statistics suggest that just 13% of young men and 32% of young women underwent STD testing for STIs in 2015.
This means that there is a significant number of young adults that are not receiving sexual health services. It is unlikely that all 87% of young men are practicing safe sex with every partner, monogamous or abstinent. This means that there are people at risk who are not tested, treated or educated.
Why have we allowed this to happen? The simple answer is money. Cuts to government spending and local services mean that many facilities are on the chopping block. Sexual health facilities and other community-based provisions are often the first to go. This means that at-risk communities no longer have access to key services.
The majority of STD testing services take place in community-based clinics or top-level Sexual Health Centres. They are the specialized, professional places to turn when a GP won’t do. Even then, cuts to GP surgeries and long waiting times for appointments mean that young people may not go there either.
It Is Crucial That Government Spending Is Better Allocated So That Vulnerable Groups Have A Place To Go
Not all sexually active adults are comfortable going to a GP or basic NHS service for their needs. A standard provision of care and adequate STD testing opportunities are not enough in areas with a wide demographic of patients. LGBT rights and issues of sexual identity are beginning to improve in the UK. This means that the NHS can’t restrict help to gay, bisexual and other MSMs that need it.
Specialist sexual health care and community-based clinics need to exist to provide guidance and support for anyone in need. If the situation does not improve then, this current crisis can only worsen.
Fewer young people will have access to STI information and STD testing, and fewer cases will be open to diagnosis. The official numbers will continue to fall while actual cases rise. The country is experiencing alarming levels of syphilis and gonorrhea. They cannot continue to remain invisible.