Health groups warn of 'tip of the iceberg' as Ipswich STI rates fall
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The number of Ipswich people found to have sexually transmitted infections has dropped significantly but this might be just "the tip of the iceberg" a health group has warned.
Public Health England data shows 613 in every 100,000 people were infected with potentially life-changing diseases including syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia.
In 2019, 830 in 100,000 people in Ipswich were diagnosed with an STI, according to the September 7 released data.
Chlamydia, often symptomless, was the most common infection with 548 cases found in 2020. A further 89 gonorrhoea cases were diagnosed, as well as three of syphilis, 45 of genital herpes and 58 of genital warts.
Eloise Brame, service manager at Terrence Higgins Trust in Suffolk, said: "STIs are still circulating in Ipswich and so testing remains as important as ever.
"Covid restrictions meant we had to be creative and adapt how we delivered STI tests. This included increasing access to online testing via iCaSH clinics– which has allowed many more people to access free, confidential testing online.
"We have also increased our postal condom services during this period. Our positivity rates have remained steady during the pandemic which means we continued to reach those people with STIs.
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"We have now restarted our outreach works in schools and other places young people go while complying with current Covid safety advice.
"While Covid lockdown has had an impact on STI rates, they certainly haven’t gone away."
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Fewer people having sex during lockdowns and disruption to health services is said to have contributed to a steep drop in STI diagnoses throughout England last year.
Dr John McSorley, president of BASHH, said the national drop in diagnoses also highlighted the "stark and concerning" impact Covid-19 has had on sexual health services.
He added: "Whilst a drop in the number of new infections appears positive, it is important to remember that England entered the Covid pandemic with the highest rates of some STIs since the Second World War.
"This data therefore likely represents the tip of the iceberg.
"STIs haven't gone away, chains of infections haven't been broken."
Dr Katy Sinka, from PHE, said: "No one wants to swap social distancing for an STI.
"If you are having sex with new or casual partners, use a condom and get tested."