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Syphilis on the rise as Suffolk sees diagnoses triple in four years

PUBLISHED: 18:08 21 February 2019

Practising safe sex prevents the spread of the infection, which is on the rise in Suffolk. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Practising safe sex prevents the spread of the infection, which is on the rise in Suffolk. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

An increase in diagnoses of Syphilis in the east of England has sparked a new social media campaign.

The campaign, a collaboration of Public Health England, the Terrence Higgins Trust and 12 local authorities aims to raise awareness of the rise of the sexually transmitted infection following an increase of 82% in diganoses from 165 in 2013 to 301 in 2017.

Of the 12 authorities taking part in the campaign, Suffolk saw the highest rise in diagnoses, with an 192% increase in the last five years.

In 2017, 35 diagnoses were made in the county, compared to 12 in 2013.

It is unclear why there has been such a sharp rise, however experts have targeted the campaign primarily towards those sexually active with other men, who represent 75% of the 301 cases diagnosed in the region in 2017.

There was a drop in cases diagnosed in Essex between 2016 and 2017 but, as with Suffolk, the county saw a sharp rise between 2013 and 2017 - with an increase of 61%, from 33 to 53.

A spokesman for iCaSH Suffolk, a sexual health service, said: “Although compared to the national average we still have low in numbers in Suffolk, we have seen a sharp spike in cases which is worrying.

“Although the numbers of diagnoses are relatively low, this still shows a significant increase and action needs to be taken to ensure that the rise is managed and controlled.”

The new campaign uses the hashtag #SyphilisBanana and it’s hoped that its eye-catching campaign materials will not only raise awareness of the infection, but also its signs, symptoms and ways to reduce the chances of catching it.

Anyone sexually active is potentially at risk, as well as unborn babies whose mothers are infected, which can cause miscarriage or stillbirth.

Rachael Scott, head of subs and satellite services for the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “This eye-catching new campaign is ultimately about getting us all thinking more about what we’re doing to protect against STIs. Syphilis can cause serious health problems if not treated.

“However, in its early stages syphilis is easy to treat and cure with antibiotics. It’s important to remember that in some instances syphilis may have no symptoms or can mimic symptoms related to other health conditions, which is why getting tested is the only way to know for sure if you have it or not.”

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