Whilst STIs are on the rise in virtually every age group in the UK, there is a notable upwards trend in older people. Changing attitudes to sex and relationships and more casual sex among older age groups is contributing to a sexual health crisis.
A recent report from Public Health England made the case for better sexual health services and education clear. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in England increased 5% between 2017 and 2018. Virtually every age group saw a rise in most infections but gonorrhoea and chlamydia saw the biggest proportional increase in people over 65. Cases of gonorrhoea increased 42% from 236 to 336 and chlamydia by 24% from 416 to 517.
A “wake up call” among people aged 15-49 years old is urgently needed with a million new sexually transmitted infections (STIs) occur every day across the world, says the World Health Organization (WHO).
According to a new report released by the health agency, 127 million new cases of chlamydia were recorded and 87 million cases of gonorrhoea in 2016.
Syphilis (6.3 million) and trichomoniasis (156 million) are also considered part of the four curable STIs the health agency says remain a “persistent and endemic health threat worldwide”.
“We’re seeing a concerning lack of progress in stopping the spread of sexually transmitted infections worldwide,” said Dr Peter Salama, Executive Director for Universal Health Coverage and the Life-Course at WHO.
We are delighted that two more of our projects have been approved for funding by Interreg 2Seas.
PATH 2 has secured more than €5 million of European funding in its €8.5 million partnership involving 13 organisations from the UK, The Netherlands, France and Belgium and will enable women, families and healthcare professionals to prevent, diagnose and successfully manage mild and moderate PMI (perinatal mental health issues) via radical systemic change, developing an inclusive, holistic health structure: demand driven and co-created with existing patients and expectant/new parents.
SHIFT has secured more than €2.5 million of European funding in its €4.2 million partnership involving 11 organisations from the UK, The Netherlands, France and Belgium (see below for partner details) and the project’s objective is to empower people aged 45+ to participate in sexual health services and to improve their sexual health and wellbeing, with an additional and specifically adapted focus on socio-economically disadvantaged groups across the 2Seas area.
Take part in the largest ever survey of Community Health Workers, taking place all over Europe.
You can take part if you…
• Are aged 18 or over AND;
• Work with gay, bisexual and other Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) now or in the last 12 months AND;
• Deliver sexual health support for gay, bisexual and other MSM in community settings (not in a hospital or clinic).
Each year, an estimated 78 million people are infected with gonorrhoea, which can infect the genitals, rectum, and throat. Complications of gonorrhoea disproportionally affect women and can include pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infertility, as well as an increased risk of HIV.
Data from 77 countries show that antibiotic resistance is making gonorrhoea more difficult, and sometimes impossible, to treat. Some countries – particularly high-income ones, where surveillance is best – are finding cases of the infection that are untreatable by all known antibiotics. These cases may just be the tip of the iceberg, as gonorrhoea is more common in lower-income countries.
Currently, in most countries, ESCs are the only single antibiotic that remain effective for treating gonorrhoea. But resistance to cefixime – and more rarely to ceftriaxone – has now been reported in more than 50 countries. As a result, WHO issued updated global treatment recommendations in 2016 advising doctors to give 2 antibiotics: ceftriaxone and azithromycin.
Between June 2016 and May 2017, an unusual increase in cases of hepatitis A affecting mainly men who have sex with men (MSM) has been reported by low endemicity countries in the European Region.
15 countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom) reported 1173 cases related to the 3 distinct multi-country hepatitis A outbreaks. Most of the affected countries have routinely recommended hepatitis A vaccine for MSM, but there is currently limited availability of this vaccine worldwide.
In Spain, hepatitis A cases reported in 2017 are almost 8 times higher than the average number of cases reported during the same period between the years 2012 and 2016. Most cases are men aged between 15 to 45 years old, and MSM are the most affected group.
There are 53 countries in the WHO European Region and within those countries there are 15 million people living with hepatitis C and 13.3 million people living with hepatitis B, the vast majority of whom are unaware of their infection and therefore at risk of developing cirrhosis or liver cancer. On average, fewer than 3% of patients with chronic hepatitis C receive treatment. In addition, there are 2.5 million people living with HIV, almost half of whom are unaware of their infection.
Safe and effective treatments exist that allow people living with HIV and/or viral hepatitis B to lead healthy and long lives. Those living with hepatitis C can be cured. Knowing your health status, however, is the prerequisite to accessing treatment and the WHO strongly supports the European HIV-Hepatitis initiative which aims to break the silence around HIV and viral hepatitis and build momentum to stop these epidemics by 2030.
The cumulative number of HIV cases in the WHO European Region has risen to a new high of more than 2 million, with 153,000 new HIV cases identified in 2015 – a 7% increase compared to the previous year and the highest annual number since reporting began in the 1980s.
A new report “HIV/AIDS surveillance in Europe 2015“, also states that 1 in 7 people living with HIV in the European Economic Area (122,000 people) are unaware of their condition.
The main transmission mode also varied by geographical area. HIV infections increased consistently among men who have sex with men in the western and central parts of the Region, while in the eastern part heterosexual transmission increased. Transmission through injecting drug use still accounted for one third of new cases in eastern European countries.
It is estimated that 131 million people are infected with chlamydia, 78 million with gonorrhoea, and 5.6 million with syphilis every year. These are the three most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and the WHO has issued new guidelines for their treatment in response to the growing threat of antibiotic resistance.
Chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis are all caused by bacteria and are generally curable with antibiotics but they often go undiagnosed and are becoming more difficult to treat, with some antibiotics now failing as a result of misuse and overuse.
Resistance of these STIs to the effect of antibiotics has increased rapidly in recent years and has reduced treatment options. Of the 3 STIs, gonorrhoea has developed the strongest resistance to antibiotics. Strains of multidrug-resistant gonorrhoea that do not respond to any available antibiotics have already been detected. Antibiotic resistance in chlamydia and syphilis, though less common, also exists, making prevention and prompt treatment critical.
When left undiagnosed and untreated, these STIs can result in serious complications and long-term health problems for women, such as pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage, and untreated gonorrhoea and chlamydia can cause infertility in both men and women. Infection with chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis can also increase a person’s risk of being infected with HIV two- to three-fold. An untreated STI in a pregnant woman increases the chances of stillbirth and newborn death.
Hepatitis is often called the silent killer because globally 95% of people with hepatitis are unaware of their infection as most sufferers show no symptoms.
Over 13 million people in the European Region are estimated to be living with hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, and over 15 million with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. More than 400 people across the WHO European Region die from causes related to viral hepatitis every day.
Hepatitis B and C usually occur as a result of blood-to-blood contact with infected body fluids: for example, from blood transfusions or invasive medical procedures using contaminated equipment. They can also be transmitted through sexual contact, although this is less common with hepatitis C.
There is an action plan to address viral hepatitis in the WHO European Region and eliminate it as a public health threat by 2030.
To read more about the plan to eliminate viral hepatitis on the euro.who.int website