Cuts to government spending on sexual health services have fuelled the rise in sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs), including syphilis and gonorrhoea, according to a new think tank report.
The report from the King’s Fund showed that spending on public health budgets had fallen by over £80 million in just one year, while sexual health, drug and smoking addiction services received the sharpest cuts.
The King’s Fund found that the planned sexual health budget, which is allocated by local councils, had dropped by 10% in the last four years (by £64 million) and is expected to lose a further £30 million within the next few years.
This comes alongside a growing fear about super-gonorrhoea, a new superbug which is resistant to most, if not all, antibiotics.
WHO medical officer Teodora Wi commented: “The bacteria that cause gonorrhoea are particularly smart. Every time we use a new class of antibiotics to treat the infection, the bacteria evolve to resist them.”
Recent evidence has also led many experts to issue warnings over the use of unprotected oral sex, which has helped to increase the spread of the superbug and the number of bacterium infections in the throat.
Today, lack of public awareness, lack of training of health workers, and stigma around sexually transmitted infections remain barriers.
World Health Organisation
Complications associated with gonorrhoea tend to disproportionally affect women, with potential effects including pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infertility, as well as an increased risk of HIV.
Meanwhile, syphilis levels are set to reach their highest point for over 70 years, affecting more people across the nation, and Public Health England reports that causes of infection have “rocketed” in the past five years.
Research shows that young people are more likely to be diagnosed with an STD than any other age group. In 2015, 15 to 24 year-olds accounted for 62% of those infected with chlamydia and just over half with gonorrhoea, which was particularly prevalent among 20 to 24 year-olds.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) commented: “Today, lack of public awareness, lack of training of health workers, and stigma around sexually transmitted infections remain barriers to greater and more effective use of these interventions.”
Director of the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership, Dr Manica Balasegaram, added: “To address the pressing need for new treatments for gonorrhoea, we aim to accelerate the development and introduction of at least one of the new pipeline drugs we have in place, and will evaluate the possible development of combination treatments for public health use.”
Both the WHO and King’s Fund concluded that STD can be more readily prevented by safer sexual practices, such as regular testing and consistent and correct condom use.