September 18, 2012
According to data from the Health Protection Agency (HPA), the United Kingdom had almost 21,000 new cases of gonorrhea in 2011, compared to 17,000 in 2010. About 57 percent of the new cases were in persons 15-24 years old. These data engendered criticism of the government's safe sex campaign for teenagers. Dr. Gwenda Hughes, head of sexually transmitted infection (STI) surveillance at the HPA, commented that the increase in gonorrhea diagnoses and the high rates of repeat infection and coinfection with other STIs indicate that more emphasis should be placed on encouraging safer sexual behavior. Health promotion and easy access to sexual health services and screening should be emphasized.
Sexual health clinics in the United Kingdom are reportedly meeting their screening targets after the new prescribing guidelines were published in 2011. As recommended by the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV, 93 percent of patients received ceftriaxone first-line treatment, compared to 53 percent in 2010. The HPA highlighted the need to prevent the high rates of STI transmission by always using a condom with casual and new partners and getting tested regularly. Gonorrhea, the second most common STI in the United Kingdom, has developed drug resistance in the last five years to several antibiotics, including penicillin, tetracyclines, ciprofloxacin, and cefixime. Doctors who treat STIs are now advised to use a combination of two drugs: ceftriaxone, which is more powerful than cefixime, and azithromycin.