England faces soaring sexual infections, warns Adler

England is facing a “public health crisis” caused by dramatic increases in all types of STDs, according to the architect of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s sexual health strategy. Professor Michael Adler, of the Royal Free and University College Medical School-London, said that unless there is political leadership, backed by money, the strategy for improving the situation could not get going. The Commons Health Select Committee’s advisor painted a bleak picture of the nation’s declining sexual health over the past 10 years.

The government has failed to meet almost all the targets set in “The Health of the Nation” in 1992, Adler wrote in the 1 April issue of Sexually Transmitted Infections. Chlamydia cases have risen 73 percent in the past five years, while cases of genital herpes rose 13 percent in the same period. The number of new HIV cases has increased dramatically and is expected to reach 33,930 by 2005. Infectious syphilis cases, which were rare in England, increased 374 percent since 1997, with 697 cases diagnosed in 2001. In the past 12 months alone, syphilis cases increased 116 percent.

Additionally, the rate of teenage conceptions among those under age 16 remained unchanged since 1992 – 8.3 conceptions per 1,000. That is well above the target of 4.8 conceptions per 1,000.

Adler said the ú47.5 million (US$74.6 million) the government allocated for its sexual health strategy would not even cover one aspect of the strategy: a Chlamydia screening program. Sexual health clinics are struggling to cope with demand, with some people in large urban centers forced to wait a month for an appointment. The number of consultants in genito- urinary medicine is 90 percent below target.

“We share Professor Adler’s concerns about worsening sexual health and recognize that there are important public health issues to be addressed,” said a Department of Health spokesperson. “This is why we have developed the first-ever national sexual health and HIV strategy.” The £47.5 million announced with the strategy has been committed to support initiatives and help improve key services, he said.

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