Increase in Syphilis and Gonorrhoea in Wales

The latest sexually transmitted infections (STI) annual report from Public Health Wales shows an increase in the number of STIs diagnosed in Wales, with a total of 12,852 diagnoses in 2017.

Most significantly, there was a 53 per cent increase in cases of syphilis diagnosed and a 21 per cent increase in diagnoses of gonorrhoea.

After almost being eradicated in the UK in the mid-1980s, syphilis has re-emerged and is now being diagnosed in men and women in Wales. It is a bacterial infection that spreads easily through anal, vaginal and oral sex. Pregnant women infected with syphilis can also pass the infection to their unborn baby. Untreated, it can lead to neurological damage and even death.

Gonorrhoea is the second most commonly reported bacterial STI in the UK after chlamydia and can lead to infertility in men and women.

Zoe Couzens, Sexual Health Lead at Public Health Wales, said:
 
"Some people develop visible symptoms of infection while others don't, so you could have an STI and not know it.

"You can catch an STI more than once, even if you've been treated for it before. You can avoid passing infection on to others by using a condom or dental dam for sex, including oral sex."

STIs are treatable. Testing and treatment is freely available at sexual health clinics and some GPs and charities.

Zoe Couzens added:

"Increases in STIs are usually related to changes in sexual behaviour in the population. Casual sex is now more available as people link up through apps.

"We would advise anyone who has unprotected sex to access testing for STIs, to protect themselves and their partners."

Information on STIs and where to access services can be found on the Frisky Wales website: www.friskywales.org.

Key findings from the report

In 2017, there were 6,920 diagnoses of chlamydia, 3,020 diagnoses of first episode genital warts, 1,422 diagnoses of first episode herpes, 1,190 diagnoses of gonorrhoea, 214 of syphilis and 86 of HIV in sexual health clinics in Wales.

Young people continue to be disproportionately affected by STIs. In 2017, the age-specific population rates of gonorrhoea diagnoses in SHCs in 15-24 year olds was 149.4 per 100,000, while in the population as a whole the rate was 38.2 per 100,000.

A high proportion of STI diagnoses are in men who have sex with men (MSM). In 2017, 65 per cent of all syphilis diagnoses, 34 per cent of all gonorrhoea diagnoses, and 48 per cent of all HIV reported in SHCs were in MSM.

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