With a staggering 100,000 infections per year, the city responsible for 1 in 4 newly detected STIs is London.
Nationally, STI rates have dropped, but experts predict this is because fewer people are getting screened. Chlamydia made up half of reported cases among 15-24 year-olds and gonorrhoea has increased by 53% in the last three years. The vast majority of these infections occurred with MSM (men having sex with men).
The large rise in diagnosis amongst gay men nationally is of great concern, with a 46% increase in syphilis and 32% in gonorrhoea. It has been recommended that MSM should have STI and HIV screening at least once a year, and if they are frequently having sex without a condom, every three months. In the London area, 1 in 12 MSM are living with the HIV virus.
Your sexual health is at risk, regardless of where you live, if you have unprotected sex. Those who live in the London area are more at risk of catching an STI infection than any other city, with a 65% higher chance than the national average. Open access to sexual health services and STI testing in London, or at home with https://www.checkurself.org.uk/order-a-test-kit/, should be improved and focus on the groups at highest risk, such as young people and gay men.
In the ethnic groups, those from a Black Caribbean background had the highest rate of STIs, with three and a half times the rate of white populations.
The increase in STIs and HIV is growing partly due to the rise in risky behaviour, which includes recreational drug use often referred to as Chemsex. Legal and illegal highs can leave a person disinhibited, leading to engagement in sexual risks they wouldn’t usually take.
London boroughs have initiated a campaign called ‘Do it London’, with funding coming from each area. The programme has delivered 2.5 million condom packs, which can be picked up from 80 different venues in London. The campaign has included advertisements on billboards and on social media advocating safe sexual behaviour, HIV testing and condom use, and also in Gay bars and clubs. It has been successful in the short time it has been running, and 67% of the respondents who had seen the campaign felt it had influenced their behaviour to regular testing.