How Common Are STIs in the UK?

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a widespread problem in the UK. Anyone can be affected by an STI as they occur across all age groups, sexualities and sexual histories. Many people won’t even be aware that they are infected as these infections can often remain hidden for months or years at a time. This is why it is so important to protect yourself and your partners by using condoms and going for STI screening. The only way that you can be sure you aren’t affected by STIs is to get tested and complete the treatment if necessary.

How Common Are STIs in the UK?


Are STIs on the Rise in the UK?

The latest statistics on STIs in the UK have revealed a worrying rise in the number of cases being diagnosed. Doctors and sexual health clinics diagnosed 447,694 new cases of STIs in 2018, which was 5% more cases than in the previous year. The increase in gonorrhoea cases was particularly dramatic as there were 26% more cases in 2018 than there were in the year before. Three of these cases were resistant to many of the drugs that we usually use to treat gonorrhoea. Syphilis cases are also on the rise, despite the disease having been almost wiped out in previous years.

There are several possible reasons for these rises in STI cases. The most optimistic would be that more people are getting tested for STIs so we are simply detecting more of the cases that would have been missed in the past. However, there has actually been a decline in some types of STI testing. The number of young people getting screened for chlamydia dropped by 22% between 2014 and 2018. Fewer people are getting tested, but more of them are testing positive for STIs.

One possible reason for the rise in STI diagnoses could be a decline in condom use. Condoms are the only form of contraception that offer protection against STIs as well as pregnancy. Although they cannot protect you against all STIs, they can prevent the transmission of many of the most common and serious infections.

However, there was some good news as the HPV vaccination programme has continued to drive a steep decline in the number of cases of genital warts in younger people. The number of cases dropped by 56% in girls and 46% in boys over the last year. The vaccine also protects against cervical cancer.

Statistics on STIs in the UK

The 2018 statistics on STIs in England revealed:

  • 218,095 cases of chlamydia
  • 131,269 cases of chlamydia in people aged 15-24 (the highest risk group)
  • 57,318 cases of genital warts
  • 56,259 cases of gonorrhoea
  • 33,867 cases of genital herpes
  • 7541 cases of syphilis

If you have been sexually active then it is impossible to know whether you have been exposed to any of these STIs unless you get tested. You can book a sexual health check at 132 Healthwise to find out if you have any infections. Many STIs can be treated with a simple course of antibiotics but they can cause serious complications if they are left untreated.

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