Soaring demand, as well as funding cuts, have pushed sexual health services in England and Wales to ‘breaking point’, a new report has found.
The report titled ’Breaking point: securing the future of sexual health services’, and published by the Local Government Association (LGA), finds that appointments at sexual health services increased by a staggering 36% between 2013 and 2021.
During that time, specialist sexual health advisers in England provided just over 4 million appointments either to people with STIs, or those looking for support with contraception.
On publication of the report the LGA, which represents councils in England and Wales, warned that sexual health services are not currently equipped to deal with unforeseen outbreaks, which could lead to a surge in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unwanted pregnancies if services remain unable to cope.
David Fothergill, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, described the situation as “unsustainable”.
STIs and the over-65s
One of the most significant findings in the LGA report related to patients over the age of 65.
According to figures published by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), the number of common STIs recorded among the over-65s increased by 20% from 2017-19.
Furthermore, the largest proportional increase in chlamydia and gonorrhoea diagnoses could be seen in people aged over 65.
Other key findings from the LGA report include:
- A growing trend towards ‘chemsex’ – the practice of using recreational drugs during sexual activity
- An apparent link between the rise in dating apps and an increase in sexual ill health among 15-24-year-olds
- A digital revolution for sexual and reproductive health, including a rapid shift towards online consultations, home STI testing and self-collection of test samples
The increase in ‘chemsex’, particularly among men who have sex with men (MSM), is especially concerning, as drug use can make people more prone to contracting HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and other infections that are commonly passed on during sexual activity.
Why is regular STI testing so important?
Although the findings of the LGA report make for worrying reading, the skyrocketing attendance levels at sexual health services can also be viewed as a positive shift in the public’s approach to sexual health.
From 2020-21, the UKHSA reported a 15.7% increase in consultations.
And while this does put some pressure on local services, it is also encouraging to see more people taking an interest in their sexual health, with public awareness around STIs having grown.
As a leading laboratory providing a wide range of at-home STI testing kits for members of the public, AlphaBiolabs understands the importance of STI testing, and the role that it plays in a person’s overall health and wellbeing.
If you are sexually active, regular STI – sometimes referred to as STD – testing is the most reliable way to make sure you are staying safe.
Many people with an STI will not experience symptoms, so these regular checks are important.
If left untreated, some STIs can cause long-lasting or permanent damage to your health, including infertility and chronic pain.
Where can I buy an STI test?
Thanks to continued innovation from laboratories like AlphaBiolabs, it has never been easier to order an STI test kit online.
All our STI test kits have been specially designed to allow you to collect your own sample quickly and easily at home.
Depending on which test you order, you will need to provide a urine sample, vaginal swab sample, lesion swab sample, or a finger-prick blood sample.
For confidential advice on which test is best for you, please call our Customer Services team on 0333 600 1300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note you must be at least 16 years of age to purchase a home STI test kit from AlphaBiolabs.
If you are experiencing symptoms that are causing you severe pain and discomfort, or that require a face-to-face examination, we advise you to contact your GP or local sexual health clinic as soon as possible.
At-home STI tests
Order your at-home STI test kit, from just £29.