Syphilis and gonorrhoea 'still on the rise' in England

Condoms Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Condoms can prevent the spread of STIs

Syphilis and gonorrhoea sexually transmitted infections are continuing to rise in England, new figures show.

Between 2012 and 2015, cases of syphilis increased by 76%, from 3,001 to 5,288, while gonorrhoea infections rose by 53%, from 26,880 to 41,193, Public Health England data reveals.

The rise was notable among men who have sex with men.

At the same time, rates of genital warts decreased, thanks to a vaccination campaign.

Rates of sexually transmitted infections as a group also went down slightly, totalling 434,456. But experts say this could be because fewer people came forward for testing.

Chlamydia was the most commonly diagnosed STI, accounting for nearly half of the cases diagnosed in 2015.

Image copyright SPL
Image caption Cases of gonorrhoea have been increasing in recent years

Young people are routinely offered chlamydia screening, but only 13% of young men and 32% of young women were tested in 2015.

The large fall in genital warts - a 7% drop - was seen in young women, and experts say this was probably because of the national human papilloma virus vaccination programme.

All girls aged 12 to 13 are offered the jab as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme.

The FPA charity's chief executive, Natika Halil, said boys should be offered the vaccine too, which is something ministers are considering.

Genevieve Edwards, of Marie Stopes UK, said the statistics should "set alarm bells ringing" about the availability of sexual health services for young people and men who have sex with men.

"We have to keep a focus on preventing sexual ill health, and providing prompt diagnosis and treatment to those who need it," she added.

The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV said the continued rise of gonorrhoea was extremely disturbing, given the further spread of drug-resistant infections.

Dr Gwenda Hughes, head of STI surveillance at PHE, said: "We need to do more to raise awareness about STIs and how they can be prevented, especially the effectiveness of using condoms.

"We recommend that anyone having sex with a new or casual partner uses condoms and tests regularly for HIV and STIs."


  • Gonorrhoea - a bacterial infection that may go unnoticed but can cause pain or burning when you urinate and a white, yellow or green discharge
  • Syphilis - a bacterial infection that initially causes highly infectious sores but can go on to cause serious conditions such as heart problems
  • Chlamydia - a bacterial infection that is often symptomless but can cause pain and an unusual discharge. Untreated, it can harm fertility
  • Genital warts - small, fleshy growths caused by a virus that although usually symptomless ,are very contagious. The wart virus - HPV - has been linked to cervical cancer which is why girls are offered a vaccine
  • Herpes - a virus that causes painful blisters and sores
  • HIV - a virus spread by unprotected sexual intercourse as well as contact with infected blood
  • Trichomoniasis - an STI caused by a parasite. It rarely causes symptoms in men but in women can cause an unusual discharge
  • Pubic lice - crawling lice that are spread by close physical contact
  • Scabies - small mites that burrow into the skin and are spread by close physical contact

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