STIs are down by almost a third in England in 2020 amid Covid pandemic

·2-min read
The drop was put down to the lockdown (PA Archive)
The drop was put down to the lockdown (PA Archive)

Sexually-transmitted infections in England were down by almost a third last year, according to the latest figures.

The drop was put down to the lockdown as well as less testing during the disruption to sexual health services amid the Covid pandemic.

People have been warned to be careful not to “swap social distancing for an STI (sexually-transmitted infection)”.

Public Health England said diagnoses decreased by 32% last year compared with 2019 but despite the fall the diagnoses remain high overall.

Last year, services to diagnose infections were scaled up to take the form of phone and internet consultations.

PHE said 317,901 STIs were diagnosed.

Consultations at sexual health services in 2020 decreased by 10% on 2019; it was the biggest drop in face-to-face consultations.

These were down by 35% on 2019 while internet consultations doubled over the same time period.

The health body also said there was a 25% fall in sexual health screening – tests for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis or HIV.

PHE said infections require an in-person assessment, like genital warts and herpes, saw a greater drop in diagnoses. They fell by 46% and 40% respectively.

Others can be diagnosed using self-sampling kits and an internet consultation fell by less; chlamydia and gonorrhoea dropped by 29% and 20% respectively.

PHE said the highest rates of STI diagnoses were still seen in people aged 15 to 24, people of black ethnicity, and gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.

These trends are the same as in previous years, they added.

Dr Katy Sinka, head of the sexually-transmitted infections section at PHE, said: “No-one wants to swap social distancing for an STI and, as we enjoy the fact that national Covid-19 restrictions have lifted, it’s important that we continue to look after our sexual health and wellbeing.

“If you are having sex with new or casual partners, use a condom and get tested – STIs can pose serious consequences to your own health and that of your current or future sexual partners.”

Debbie Laycock, head of policy at HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust welcomed the “significant drop” as “one unexpected good news story from the coronavirus pandemic”.

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