As students begin a new term at university, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is urging them to take precautions to protect their sexual health. Both gonorrhoea and HPV cases have increased dramatically in young people, leading to potentially serious consequences.
Here, we look at the rise in sexually transmitted disease, and how to protect your sexual health.
Cases of gonorrhoea increase by over 50%
In 2022, figures showed a startling rise in gonorrhoea cases. The UKHSA reported an increase of more than 50%, bringing the count to over 82,500 cases.
This preventable sexually transmitted disease is most common among young adults, particularly those aged 19-20. Last year, there were around 400 sexually transmitted infections diagnosed every day in young people.
While increased testing might account for some of these rising numbers, experts believe there’s more to it. They suggest that we might be seeing a broader spread of STIs within the community.
Another growing concern is the reduced effectiveness of antibiotics against this infection. As gonorrhoea is becoming more resistant to antibiotics, there’s a risk that it could become untreatable in the future.
Typically, symptoms manifest within two weeks post-infection, but it could sometimes take longer. Common signs include a green or yellow discharge from the genitals, and pain during urination. However, most people don’t exhibit any symptoms at all.
Sexually transmitted HPV rates soar
It isn’t just gonorrhoea rates that are increasing. There has been a worrying rise in sexually transmitted HPV, with some cases leading to oropharyngeal cancer. This type of cancer targets areas like the back of the throat, tonsils, and tongue.
The CDC has blamed HPV as the primary cause behind a staggering 70% of oropharyngeal cancer cases. The trouble is the disease can be difficult to detect.
Data reveals that roughly 3.6% of women and 10% of men experience oral HPV. Although many HPV infections resolve on their own in a few months, there is the risk they could turn into something more sinister like throat cancer.
The HPV vaccine has shown to be highly effective at curbing the transmission of HPV. However, uptake of the vaccine is down, with The National Cancer Institute pointing out that just 54.5% of teens aged 13-15 have received the advised two to three doses of the vaccine.
Protecting your sexual health
Looking after your sexual health is as crucial as any other aspect of your well-being. One of the easiest and most effective ways to stay safe is by always using protection, such as condoms, which can help shield you from risks like gonorrhoea.
With the rising concerns about HPV, getting vaccinated is also a smart move. This vaccine not only keeps you safe from the virus, but also from potential complications. Remember, even if you feel fine, it’s essential to have regular sexual health check-ups. Some issues might not show clear symptoms but can be caught early with routine visits. Without treatment, you can risk serious consequences like pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy or infertility.
To keep on top of your sexual health, book an appointment with one of our friendly, expert consultant gynaecologists at SureScan. They will ensure you receive a fully confidential, best quality of care possible. If any sexual health infections are detected, then treatment can be organised straight away, to help prevent any future health issues.