Most common STIs and how to catch painful, itchy and worrying symptoms early

A new report has revealed the most common STIs in England last year – detailing STI rates and hotspots throughout the country.

The report was released by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) on the website.

There was an overall increase of STI diagnoses throughout the year, with the likes of gonorrhoea, chlamydia, syphilis and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) on the list.

The data also revealed that a total of 4,002,827 consultations took place at Sexual Health Services throughout 2021, which means a 15.7% increase compared to 2020 and an increase of 3.9% since 2019.

But what are the most common STIs in England according to the new data, and where are the main hotspots in the UK?

Here's everything you need to know.

What are the most common STIs?

Following the disruptions in service delivery during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of consultations at sexual health clinics increased between 2020 and 2021 and now exceeds the number reported in 2019.

According to the website, chlamydia continues to account for the majority of STI diagnoses made in 2021, a large proportion of which are related to the National Chlamydia Screening Programme.

Last year, there were 1,949,940 diagnostic tests for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and HIV, an increase of 18.7% compared to 2020, but 13.2% decrease relative to 2019.

Similar to the distribution of STIs diagnosed in 2020, the most commonly diagnosed STIs in 2021 were chlamydia (159,448; 51.2% of all new STI diagnoses), gonorrhoea (51,074; 16.4%), first episode genital warts (28,280; 9.1%), and first episode genital herpes (21,649; 7%).

In addition, there were 7,506 diagnoses of infectious (primary, secondary, early latent) syphilis reported in 2021, an 8.4% increase compared to 2020.

The data also revealed that the impact of STIs remain greatest in young people aged 15 to 24 years, certain Black ethnic groups, and those within the gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) community.

Where are the chlamydia hotspots in the UK?

In 2021, chlamydia testing coverage among young people ranged from 10.9% in West Midlands to 20.8% in London, according to the new data from the UKHSA.

Test positivity for the STI ranged from 7.8% in the South West to 10.3% in the West Midlands whereas the detection rate per 100,000 population aged 15 to 24 ranged from 1,079 in the South West to 1,673 in London.

The report also lists preventative measures for STIs including:

  • Using condoms consistently and correctly protects against HIV and other STIs while preventing unplanned pregnancy
  • regular screening for STIs and HIV is essential to maintain good sexual health – everyone should have an STI screen, including an HIV test, on at least an annual basis if having unprotected sex with new or casual partners.

How to spot early symptoms of an STI

If you are concerned that you may have an STI, it is important that you book an appointment with your GP or go to a sexual health walk-in centre as soon as possible.

Do not have sex, including oral sex, without using a condom until you've had a check-up.

You can have an STI without knowing it and infect your partner during sex.

According to the NHS website, here are the symptoms you need to look out for:

  • an unusual discharge from the vagina, penis or anus
  • pain when peeing
  • lumps or skin growths around the genitals or bottom (anus)
  • a rash
  • unusual vaginal bleeding
  • itchy genitals or anus
  • blisters and sores around your genitals or anus
  • warts around your genitals or anus
  • warts in your mouth or throat, but this is very rare.

For more information, visit the NHS website.

Read more:

  • The drug-resistant bacterial STI that the NHS rarely tests for – see symptoms

  • Top 10 things Brits love most about sex – from foreplay to naked bodies

  • Men refuse to give oral sex but will happily receive it from partner says study

  • You may think a woman is 'ejaculating' during sex – but it could be something else

  • Escort explains why married clients pay for sex when they already get it at home

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