Suffolk gonorrhoea cases up 150% as new STI data reveals biggest increases and decreases

STI testing in Suffolk has increased, according to Suffolk County Council. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/IST

STI testing in Suffolk has increased, according to Suffolk County Council. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCK PHOTO - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Cases of gonorrhoea, syphilis and chlamydia have significantly risen in Suffolk, but health bosses have said that the county remains much lower than other areas.

Data published for Suffolk County Council’s health scrutiny committee revealed that gonorrhoea diagnoses were up 150% between 2014 and 2018 in the county, while chlamydia was up 36% and syphilis up 27%.

In total, diagnoses of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) was at 514 per 100,000 people, which was much lower than the 851 per 100,000 average for England.

Health bosses said that STI testing rates in the county had increased significantly during that time, and there had been dramatic reductions in other infections such as HIV – down 36% – as well as genital warts (down 31%) and a 16% decrease in herpes.

A spokeswoman from Suffolk County Council and Cambridge Community Services NHS Trust which runs sexual health services on behalf of the county, said: “Overall, Suffolk is a low prevalence area for sexually transmitted infections.

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“The rate of new STI diagnoses in Suffolk in 2019 was 544 diagnoses per 100,000 people, which is significantly lower than the England average of 816 per 100,000 people.

“The introduction of online STI testing has improved access to screening for STIs across Suffolk. This has contributed to a significant increase in our STI testing rates in Suffolk.

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“We have also seen significant decreases in diagnoses of HIV, genital warts and genital herpes.

“Significant decreases in genital warts diagnoses have been attributed to the protective effect of widespread HPV [human papillomavirus] vaccination among school aged girls.

“This vaccination programme has now also been extended to men who have sex with men and will soon be rolled out among school aged boys, further adding to the protective coverage of the vaccination.

“Widespread initiatives to control the spread of HIV infection including preventative treatment such as PrEP [pre-exposure prophylaxis], and increased targeting and health promotion among at-risk groups has also contributed to a significant reduction in the rate of HIV diagnosis nationally, and this trend is reflected in Suffolk.”

According to the authorities, the majority of chlamydia cases were among the 15-24 age group, which is why a targeted screening campaign was undertaken for those young adults. It had risen from 171 to 333 per 100,000 people between 2015 and 2019.

For gonorrhoea, the significant increase from 16 to 41 per 100,000 in Suffolk mirrored the national trend, but remained below the 123 per 100,000 national average.

Syphilis cases saw a spike in 2017 which has now levelled out, the authorities said, and just 14 people were diagnosed with the infection in Suffolk last year.

However, a regional action plan is being followed in the county which includes awareness via social media and briefings for health professionals to spot the signs of infection earlier.

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