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LONDON -- New cases of chlamydia rose by 9 percent from 82,558 to 89,818 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2003, according to latest figures released by the Health Protection Agency. It remains the most commonly diagnosed sexually transmitted infection (STI) in genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics.
Overall, new diagnoses of STIs in GUM clinics increased by 4 percent from 678,709 in 2002 to 708,083 during 2003. However, the picture is variable, with diagnoses of some infections such as chlamydia and syphilis increasing, and diagnoses of gonorrhea and genital herpes declining.
Comparison of numbers of new diagnoses between 2002-2003 show:
-- Chlamydia increased by 9 percent (from 82,558 in 2002 to 89,818 in 2003)
-- Syphilis increased by 28 percent (from 1,232 in 2002 to 1,575 in 2003)
-- Gonorrhea decreased by 3 percent (from 25,065 in 2002 to 24,309 in 2003)
-- Genital warts increased by 2 percent (from 69,569 in 2002 to 70,883 in 2003)
-- Genital herpes decreased by 2 percent (from 18,432 in 2002 to 17,990 in 2003)
There continue to be marked variations in STI diagnoses across the country, reflecting the impact of local outbreaks (for example syphilis in Manchester and London), as well as the distribution of high-risk groups for STIs. Early indications of reductions in gonorrhea in some regions also highlight the importance and effectiveness of local STI prevention activities, which promote the importance of regular testing and safer sexual behavior.
Sir William Stewart, chairman of the Health Protection Agency, said, These are all preventable infections and it is a cause of considerable concern that we are still seeing increases in new diagnoses of STIs across the UK and unsafe sex is undoubtedly a main contributor to this.
This is the time of year when many young people go on holiday and these figures are a timely reminder of how important it is for people to take responsibility for their own, and their partners sexual health, and to use a condom with new and casual sexual partners. If people think they are at risk of having contracted an STI, or have any symptoms, they should go to a GUM clinic for a check-up at the earliest opportunity.
Stweart added, Surveillance of infectious diseases, including STIs, is an important part of the Health Protection Agencys remit; these figures play a crucial role in the development of strategies to control and prevent infections across the UK.
The continued rise in the numbers of cases diagnosed is also partly attributable to more people coming forward for testing due to greater awareness of STIs. This is important because early detection is vital and some infections, particularly chlamydia and gonorrhea, can often have no symptoms, leaving people unaware that they are infected.
Nevertheless, the data confirm that certain sections of the population, notably gay men and young people, remain the groups most affected and the Agency will continue to work with them to tackle high disease rates.
Dr. Angela Robinson, president of British Association of Sexual Health and HIV said, Any reduction in the dramatic increases in the numbers of STI cases of the past 5 years is to be welcomed. The fall in gonorrhea diagnoses in heterosexuals reflects the prompt action of GUM physicians in changing standard treatment in 2003 in the light of surveillance data from the HPA Gonococcal Antibiotic Resistance Surveillance Program. This good collaboration between HPA and clinicians is important to control sexually transmitted infections.
However, the numbers of patients attending clinics continues to increase as service providers know and as is confirmed here by the rise in reported workload. The increased number of infections in men having sex with men will fuel HIV transmission. Prompt access to GUM services for patients is essential if the number of new infections is to be reduced
Launching the Agencys annual report, Stewart said: Surveillance and tackling infectious diseases form only one part of the Agencys work. Our annual report illustrates the many other areas in which Agency staff, working with national and international partners, have made significant progress in protecting peoples health against the additional threats of chemical and radiation hazards, and poisons.
For example, in the field of chemicals we are working with UK partners to investigate the possible health effects of various chemical emissions, while at international level, the Agency is working with European partners to protect children's health against environmental dangers.
"Our research and development program focuses on vaccine development and investigating ways of reducing the risk of infections such as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and meningitis, as well as preparing for the continuing threat of zoonoses."
Source: Health Protection Agency