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STI rates rose by 0.5% last year, HPA figures show

By Lilian Anekwe

The number of gonorrhoea and syphilis infections in the UK has fallen, but cases of genital warts and herpes infections are up., the latest figures from the Health Protection Agency show.

Overall, the number of sexually-transmitted infections rose by 0.5% last year, from a total of 397,909 new cases recorded in 2007 to 399,738 new cases recorded in 2008.

The rise was largely attributable to genital herpes and genital wart infections.

The total number of genital herpes diagnoses increased by 10% from 26,270 new cases recorded in 2007 to 28,957 in 2008, while genital warts diagnoses also increased by 3% from 89,515 new cases recorded in 2007 to 92,525 recorded in 2008.

The HPA figures also show an 11% decrease in the total number of new gonorrhoea infections diagnosed in the UK last year, from 18,649 infections in 2007 to 16,629 in 2008 – the lowest number of new infections recorded since 1999.

Syphilis also showed a 4% decrease from 2,633 new cases recorded in 2007 to 2,524 new cases in 2008, a level which the HPA say is still ‘considerably higher' than 10 years ago.

Some of the highest rates of infection were seen in the 16-24 age group, who represent 65% of all chlamydia infections, 55% of genital warts and 47% of gonorrhoea diagnoses.

Dr Gwenda Hughes, head of the Health Protection Agency's sexually transmitted infections department said: ‘The decrease we have observed in cases of gonorrhoea and syphilis is an encouraging sign.

‘However this does not mean we should be complacent. We know that there is still a substantial pool of people who are infected with STIs who remain undiagnosed.'

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