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'Disappointing' rise in STI figures

Too many people are putting themselves at risk by having unsafe sex, health experts have warned, as figures were released showing a rise in the number of new cases of sexually-transmitted infections (STIs).

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) said diagnoses of STIs in England rose by 2% from 419,773 new cases in 2010 to 426,867 last year.

The steepest rise was in gonorrhoea which leapt 25% from 16,835 cases to 20,965, followed by diagnoses of syphilis, which rose by 10% from 2,650 to 2,915 cases. New cases of genital herpes rose by 5% from 29,794 to 31,154 in the same period.

The agency said there was a significant rise in the number of new diagnoses of STIs among gay men. There was also a high rate of STIs amongst young heterosexual adults aged between 15 and 24 years old.

Dr Gwenda Hughes, head of the HPA sexually transmitted infections surveillance section, said there had been a steady increase over the past decade of the number of new diagnoses of STIs, apart from last year when there was a small decline.

"The reasons for this are numerous. There has been a lot more testing of STIs, there have been a lot more people going to clinics and getting an STI test, we have also been using much more sensitive testing - we are picking up more infections," she said.

"But we do think that there is quite a lot of evidence of on-going unsafe sexual behaviour as well. We think that it is a combination of all these things that is responsible for the increase."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "The fact that more people are coming forward to be tested and the improvements there have been in the way tests are done is to be welcomed.

"But it's also clear that not enough people are taking care of their sexual health.

"Sexually transmitted infections can lead to infertility and other serious health problems. The message is clear whatever your age, you should always use a condom."

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