Sexually transmitted infection rates plunge in Peterborough during pandemic
The decrease in the number of people having sex due to lockdown restrictions limiting contact and disruption of health services contributed to a sharp drop in STI diagnoses in England last year, experts say.
The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV has warned that the latest figures could represent “the tip of the iceberg”.
Data from Public Health England shows 1,516 STIs were diagnosed in Peterborough in 2020, down 11% from the previous year.
This meant that 748 out of 100,000 people in the region were infected with life-changing diseases, including syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia.
However, that rate was down from 2019, when 836 in 100,000 people in Peterborough were diagnosed with STIs.
The most common infection in the region was chlamydia with 836 cases detected in 2020. Another 212 cases of gonorrhea were diagnosed, along with 20 cases of syphilis, 65 cases of genital herpes and 95 cases of genital warts.
Dr John McSorley, chairman of BASHH, said the nationwide drop in diagnoses highlighted the “harsh and worrying” impact Covid-19 has had on sexual health services.
He added: “While a drop in the number of new infections looks positive, it’s important to remember that England entered the Covid pandemic with the highest rates of some STIs since World War II.
“So these data are probably the tip of the iceberg.
“STIs haven’t gone away, the chains of infection haven’t been broken.”
He urged people to get tested, saying sexually transmitted infections could have life-changing consequences.
Dr Katy Sinka, of PHE, said: ‘No one wants to trade social distancing for an STI, and since we appreciate the fact that national restrictions on Covid-19 have been lifted, it is important that we continue to take care our sexual health and well-being.
“If you have sex with new or casual partners, use a condom and get tested.
“STIs can have serious consequences for your own health and that of your current or future sexual partners. “
The national drop reflects a combination of reduction in STI testing due to disruption of sexual health services and changes in sexual behavior due to a pandemic since March 2020, according to a PHE report.
He said testing and diagnoses declined for all infections in the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, but sexual health services continued to diagnose hundreds of thousands of infections after stepping up phone consultations and the Internet during lockdowns.
Face-to-face appointments for urgent or complex cases also continued during this period.