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5 June 2013, 06:12
Over 21,000 new sexual infections were diagnosed in the North East in 2012.
Figures published by Public Health England show a total of 21,507 new cases of STIs were diagnosed in the North East last year compared to 20,602 in 2011.
However, changes to PHE data collection methods in 2012 mean that caution is required when comparing 2012 figures with data from previous years.
The latest data now include HIV cases diagnosed in genito-urinary medicine (GUM) clinics and data from a new Chlamydia surveillance system, so an increase in the total number of new STIs is expected.
The five most commonly diagnosed STIs, both nationally and locally, continue to be chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, genital herpes and genital warts.
In the North East, chlamydia remains the most commonly diagnosed STI with 12,056 new cases diagnosed last year.
Those aged under 25 experienced the highest STI rates.
Young adults are advised to get tested for chlamydia annually or on change of sexual partner, as part of the National Chlamydia Screening Programme to control the infection and its complications.
In 2012, over 1.7 million chlamydia tests were undertaken and over 136,000 diagnoses made nationally.
The STI which increased the most in the region last year was gonorrhoea, with cases rising 41% from 749 in 2011 to 1,055 in 2012.
This increase is also being seen nationally with cases going up by 21%. High gonorrhoea transmission rates are concerning as the global threat of antibiotic resistance grows.
Ensuring treatment resistant strains of gonorrhoea do not persist and spread remains a public health priority, and the Gonorrhoea Resistance Action Plan for England and Wales was launched by PHE to help tackle this threat in early 2013.
New diagnoses of syphilis also increased over the period (+22%) although cases of herpes stabilised and warts decreased.
Dr Kirsty Foster, sexual health lead for PHE in the North East told Capital:
"These latest figures show that, in common with the rest of the UK, poor sexual health continues to be a serious problem in the North East.
Annual cases of gonorrhoea have almost doubled in the North East since 2009.
This continued rise is a particular cause for concern, as we know drug resistance is emerging and we can no longer rely on treatment alone.
These are all preventable infections and it's crucial that we continue to communicate messages about safe sex, including condom wearing, and the importance of getting checked out if you've had unprotected sex with a new partner.
Quick diagnosis is of the essence, so anyone who thinks they may have put themselves at risk of contracting an STI, or who has symptoms of an STI should go to their local GUM clinic at the earliest opportunity."