Are we facing an STI epidemic in England?
It seems that sexually transmitted infections are on the rise and becoming more aggressive than ever before. With cases of ‘super gonorrhoea’ reported earlier this year, and recent findings from Public Health England showing an increase in chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and syphilis, it seems that we have a somewhat STI crisis on our hands, but how bad is the problem and what can be done to curb the increasing number of new STI diagnoses?
We’re giving a lesson in how to avoid contracting these nasty STIs, and what to do if you’re one of the 447, 694 people who have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection.
The rise of STIs in England: how big is the problem?
The data from Public Health England was published just this month, and the results are worrying. The report reveals that from 2017 to 2018 there was a 5% increase in the number of new STI diagnoses, taking the number from 424,724 to 447, 694. New cases of gonorrhoea had rose by a staggering 26%, cases of syphilis have more than doubled over the past 10 years, while chlamydia increased by 2% since 2017 but it still accounts for half of new STI diagnoses.
The most common STI revealed: chlamydia
Chlamydia is probably the most well known STI and is the most commonly diagnosed sexually transmitted infection. It’s caused by the bacteria known as chlamydia trachomatis being passed from one person to another through unprotected vaginal, anal, and oral sex. There may not be any penetration or ejaculation at all but simply genitals coming into contact with each other without the protection of condoms can spread chlamydia. But don’t worry a kiss, hug, or sharing the same cutlery won’t end in you catching chlamydia, this bacteria is transmitted through genital fluids such as semen and vaginal fluid rather than saliva.
Although it’s very common, it’s highly treatable and highly avoidable!
Chlamydia is so easily treatable if caught early. Early diagnosis of any STI prevents more serious complications such as infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, and even passing it onto your child during pregnancy and childbirth. Antibiotics such as azithromycin and doxycycline are used to clear chlamydia up within a week. You may be prescribed antibiotics for up to a week, or just to be taken in one day.
What other STIs should we be concerned about?
The possibility of catching an STI no matter how rare or common it is should be everyone’s concern. If you’re having unprotected sex particularly with new or casual partners you’re increasing your risk of contracting any type of STI. However, there are some STIs that continue to make the top of the list when it comes to rising figures in new diagnoses. Along with chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis are the most common STIs in the UK and across the globe, and others include genital warts, genital herpes, trichomoniasis, HIV, pubic lice, and scabies. Granted, some are far more serious than others but all have the potential to develop into more serious health issues if they go undetected and untreated.
Who’s most at risk?
Young people aged 15-24 are among the most high risk groups and make up the majority of chlamydia diagnoses. However, anyone at any age who is having unprotected sex is at risk, STIs do not discriminate! In fact, there was a significant rise in the over 65s being diagnosed with gonorrhoea, a figure of 42%! Although it’s good to know that people are still enjoying sex in old age, it’s worrying that lessons have still not been learnt by this age, and STIs are spreading amongst the young and old.
If you don’t have any signs of an STI you must be clear, right?
Wrong! Fortunately you’re not experiencing any pain or discomfort, but this doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods. The most dangerous thing about STIs is that they’re often symptomless and don’t show themselves at all. They’re a sort of silent epidemic that’s sweeping the globe right now as many people are not even aware they’re infected and are spreading them unknowingly. The answer to this? Regular STI testing. This is the only way to detect all STIs and you should get tested each time you have unprotected sex.
If you are showing symptoms this should prompt you to visit your GP or sexual health clinic to get a proper diagnosis. Symptoms can vary between different types of STIs, however, generally if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms you may have an STI.
- Unusual discharge from the vagina, penis, or anus
- Pain when peeing
- Unusual vaginal bleeding
- A rash
- Itchy genitals or anus
- Lumps or skin growths around the genitals or anus
- Blisters and sores around the genitals or anus
What should you do when you’re diagnosed with an STI?
The good thing is you’ve been tested and diagnosed, what you do from here will help stop the spread of your infection and help your infection to clear. When you’re diagnosed you’ll be prescribed the most appropriate medication for that particular STI, whether that’s antibiotics for chlamydia, or creams such as Wartec to treat genital warts. IMeds UK can provide many of the common STI treatments, so if you’re too embarrassed to get your medication face to face, you can get it online in the comfort of your own home through iMeds UK.
When you have a diagnosis it’s important to inform any sexual partners so that they can get tested and treated if necessary. This also helps minimise the spread to other people and plays a part in reducing these rising figures. You should also avoid having sex until your infection has fully cleared, this will help your infection clear quicker and prevent any further infections. It also stops you from passing your STI onto someone else.
How to prevent contracting an STI
Fortunately, we have fantastic medicine available to cure sexually transmitted infections, but prevention is always better than cure particularly as resistance to antibiotics is becoming a public health crisis.
The most effective way of preventing catching an STI is by using a barrier method of protection during sex such as condoms. Condoms are 98% effective at protecting against STIs. Other things that are just as important include getting relevant vaccinations for certain types of STI such as hepatitis B, reducing your number of sexual partners, getting tested regularly, and avoid having sex under the influence of drink and drugs as this may make you less conscious of having protected sex.
Remember this isn’t to scare you off having sex, it’s about making sex safer and stopping the spread of STIs.