Sexually transmitted diseases flourishing in the UK

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According to the latest research sexually transmitted infections continue to flourish in the UK and have in fact risen for the 10th successive year.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) estimates there was a dramatic rise in the number of new diagnoses over the past decade with almost 10,000 more new cases of sexual infections diagnosed than in 2005, bringing the annual total to 376,508.

The agency's report on the nation's sexual health also shows the infection rates for three of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) rose again last year:- the number of new cases of chlamydia rose by 4% to 113,585; genital herpes cases rose by 9% to 21,698; while genital warts rose by 3% to 83,745. But the number of gonorrhea cases dropped by 1% from the previous year to 19,007.

Professor Pat Troop, chief executive of the HPA, says the increasing levels of viral STIs such as herpes and warts, particularly in young adults, is a concern.

It appears that between 2005 and 2006 new diagnoses of genital herpes increased by 9% and genital warts by 3%. The HPA says it is important to remember that Herpes infections are for a lifetime and although the symptoms are treatable people continue to suffer from recurrences.

The HPA blames the rise in infections on young heterosexual adults and gay men neglecting to practice safe sex.

Dr. Gwenda Hughes, head of the agency's sexual health department, says these two groups are of most concern and it is crucial safe sex messages are understood by both of them.

Dr. Hughes says there has been a continued and substantial increase in infections amongst gay men despite messages about condom wearing, and the importance of getting tested if they feel they've put themselves at risk of contracting an STI.

The report says teenagers made up 40% of females infected with gonorrhea, while gay and bisexual men accounted for a third of new cases in men, as well as nearly 60% of male syphilis diagnoses.

Dr. Hughes, says multiple partners, changing partners and failing to wear condoms all contributed to higher rates in this group.

The figures do however show a decrease in the number of people in the UK diagnosed with HIV to 6,642 last year, compared with a record of 7,642 in 2005.

Delays in accessing treatment are reported to be exacerbating the spread of STIs as in some cases patients were forced to wait a week with symptoms before receiving any treatment and during that time 44.8% of men and 58% of women continued to have sex, 7% of them had sex with more than one partner, and 4.2% had unprotected sex with a new partner.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said improving sexual health remained a priority for the NHS.

The HPA says the rise in the number of people being diagnosed was due in part to more people coming forward for testing.

During 2006, nearly 1 million people were screened for an STI at a genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic.

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