Dating apps linked to rise in STIs across West Sussex
The number of sexually transmitted infections diagnosed in West Sussex has increased slightly, reflecting a larger rise across England.
Health experts have put the trend down to new sexual habits linked to the use of dating apps, as well as public budget cuts in sexual health services.
The figures from Public Health England show 3,291 people were diagnosed with an STI in 2018, compared to 3,244 the previous year.
That is a rate of 641 people being diagnosed with a new infection per 100,000 West Sussex residents aged 15 to 64 in the area, compared to 851 on average across England.
The figures include new STIs diagnosed by sexual health services, excluding chlamydia in under 25s.
There were 463 new cases of gonorrhoea in the area, up from 412 the previous year. A further 69 cases were related to syphilis, six fewer than in 2017.
Dr Mark Lawton, from the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, said: “Gonorrhoea is a marker of unprotected sexual activity. The use of dating apps is likely to be contributing to the increase in STIs seen, along with general changes in attitudes to sex.
“This is happening at a time when we’re seeing significant cuts to funding of sexual health services, affecting access to timely testing and treatment and creating a ‘perfect storm’.”
Nationally, the number of new STIs diagnoses increased by seven per cent in 2018. Gonorrhoea increased by 25 per cent to 54,198 cases, the largest number recorded since 1978. There were a further 7,287 cases of syphilis – a five per cent increase on 2017.
Debbie Laycock, head of policy and public affairs at the Terrence Higgins Trust, a charity working on HIV and other STI prevention, said urgent action is needed from the Government.
She said: “We are yet again seeing soaring rates of syphilis and gonorrhoea, and increases in the number of people attending sexual health services, which is happening against a backdrop of central government stripping £700 million from public health budgets in the last five years.
“Progress has sharply halted in tackling rates of chlamydia, with rates up six per cent last year, while there continues to be a decline in the number of chlamydia tests being carried out.
“This is clear evidence that removing access to testing is having a direct impact on the rates of chlamydia, with cases now rising.
“There is now a real risk to widening health inequalities already faced by certain groups.
“Black, asian, and minority ethnic communities, young people, people living with HIV and gay and bisexual men are once again disproportionally affected by new STI rates. Gay and bisexual men, for example, accounted for 75 per cent of new syphilis cases.”
• Report by Miguel Rodriguez, data reporter