Syphilis cases rise in Bristol despite overall drop in STIs during lockdown

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have almost halved in Bristol during the pandemic, but syphilis has actually risen and remains at worrying levels, new figures reveal. The lockdown has seen new STI diagnoses drop 43.7% overall in 2020/21 from the previous 12 months, according to the city’s annual Health Protection Report.

However, Bristol’s rate of 718 cases per 100,000 population was still ‘significantly higher’ than the national average of 619, while syphilis has more than doubled since 2016. The report, presented to the health and welfare council Be of the city said that sexually transmitted diseases among Bristol women were well above those in the whole country.

He said: “A significant decline in STI diagnoses was recorded for 2020. This reduction was seen nationwide and was most likely due to the impact that Covid-19 had on both interactions and the restricted access to sexual health services and testing during this time. Detailed analysis suggests that the greatest reduction in STI rates occurred around April/May 2020 when Covid-19 restrictions took hold, and rates began to recover from June 2020.

Read more: Syphilis cases in Bristol double in three years, report reveals

“Despite the reduction in other STIs for 2020/21, a particular concern is the continued rise in syphilis cases. There were 83 cases of syphilis in Bristol in 2020. This gives a rate of 17.8 per 100,000, which which is significantly higher than England’s rate and more than double the 2016 rate.

“Although the absolute numbers are relatively low compared to other STIs, syphilis can cause very serious long-term problems if left untreated.” New figures on HIV cases were not available in time for the report, so the impact of the pandemic is not yet clear, but he said work was continuing to “end HIV by 2030” as part of the Fast Track Cities initiative, which Bristol signed up to three years ago.

This included increasing testing and reducing stigma, for example through a pilot project with pharmacies in high-rate areas. The report says Unity’s sexual health department introduced an STI diagnostic machine for chlamydia and gonorrhea at its central health clinic in 2020/21, which delivered results in four hours, compared to two to three weeks when samples previously had to be sent to Southmead’s laboratory. Hospital.

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This allows “earlier treatment of patients, reduces unnecessary antibiotic use and the potential for antimicrobial resistance.” He said: “Currently, if a patient is tested for an STI in primary care and the results are positive, the GP will provide treatment to the patient, but the patient’s sexual contacts are not routinely contacted, tested and treated.

“Local research was undertaken to determine if telephone follow-up of contacts by the sexual health service Unity was acceptable and feasible. The results have been positive and partners in the Sexual Health Improvement Health Integration Team are now developing a wider pilot project to ensure this can be rolled out in Bristol and surrounding local authorities .

Brianna O’Malley, Bristol City Council’s senior public health specialist, told council on Thursday February 24: ‘There has been a significant reduction in the number of sexual health cases detected in the last year, mainly due from lockdown, reduced social interactions and access to testing availability for sexual health. Our main concern is in the area of ​​syphilis where we have significantly higher rates in Bristol than rates in England and they have more than doubled since 2016.”

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