Demand for sexual health advice in England hits record highs | sexual health

The growing number of sexually transmitted infections among those over 65, the rise of “chemsex” and the popularity of dating apps are leading to record demand for sexual health advice, a report has found.

Specialist counselors provided just over 4 million appointments for people suffering from a sexually transmitted disease such as syphilis or needing help with contraception in England last year.

Participation in sexual and reproductive health services is skyrocketing due to changes in people’s sexual behaviors, according to a report by the Local Government Association.

She highlights that the number of registered sexually transmitted infections among people over the age of 65 rose from 2,280 in 2017 to 2,748 in 2019 – a 20% increase. The largest increases were in gonorrhea and chlamydia.

“Chemsex” meetings, in which predominantly gay and bisexual men have sex while using drugs such as GHB and mephedrone, increase the risk of people contracting HIV or hepatitis B or C.

“This has had a major impact on the volume and complexity of the work that sexual health services are engaged in. Chemsex interactions have increased…and this has directly translated into increased attendance at sexual health clinics, particularly in cities/urban centers,” the LGA report said.

The widespread use of hook-up apps is also leading to more STIs. For example, according to the report’s authors, Councilor David Fothergill, Chair of the LGA Welfare Committee, and James Woolgar, they have made women “more risk-averse and therefore far more likely to need treatment for an STD”. . , Liverpool’s Director of Public Health.

“The high usage and access of smartphones and dating apps comes at a price,” the report said.

“Sexual admixture has changed significantly over the last 10 years, with an increase in app usage and online dating,” Fothergill said. “This, coupled with a small but growing number of people over the age of 65 requiring support from sexual health services, has resulted in new and emerging pressures for those services to contend with.”

The number of STIs diagnosed in England is declining; In 2021, 311,604 were registered. However, about 2 million people were tested for an STI this year, 19% more than in 2020.

In recent years, the LGA has found that people who need sexual health advice are accessing it online rather than in a clinic or over the phone. A large and rapidly growing minority of the 4 million people helped in 2021 were seen this way.

dr Claire Dewsnap, President of the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV, said services are under unprecedented pressure due to “an evolving sexual health landscape.”

“Changed patterns of sexual behavior among some demographic groups are reflected, for example, in increases in sexually transmitted diseases diagnosed in those over 65, while practices such as chemsex and use of dating apps may also be associated with higher-risk behaviors,” she said .

The LGA warned that services funded by local government rather than the NHS are “at breaking point” as their funding has been cut despite record turnout due to the public health grant the government is giving to councils , which have been running since will shrink by around £1bn in 2015. Further cuts could hamper efforts to reduce sexually transmitted diseases, access to contraception and efforts to limit teenage pregnancy, Fothergill warned.

The number of women who are choosing long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) over the pill – coils, implants and injectable contraceptives – is increasing dramatically. In 2011, only 29% of women who attended a sex health service did so using such contraceptive methods. But last year that figure was 56%, the LGA said.

A spokesman for the Department for Health and Social Care said: “We made more than £3.4 billion available to local authorities in England this year to fund public health services, including sexual and reproductive health.

“Local authorities are responsible for providing free sexual and reproductive health services, including free and confidential HIV and STI testing, condoms, provision of the HIV prevention drug PrEP, vaccination and contraception counseling.”

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