April 4, 2006
Understaffed Northern Ireland genitourinary (GUM) clinics are continuing to see more STDs, including dramatic increases of gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis. Between January and September 2005, there were 53 HIV cases, compared to 63 cases for all of 2004. During the same timeframe, there were 1,757 chlamydia cases. The total of 201 gonorrhea cases logged during those months was 42 more than for all of 2004. There were 68 syphilis cases in the first nine months of 2005, compared to 69 cases in 2004.
"Waiting lists at GUM clinics have soared over recent years," said Democratic Unionist Party MP David Simpson, whose written inquiry elicited the data. "Unfortunately, patients who cannot be seen immediately pose a potential risk for spreading infection to others when there are long waiting times."
In response, Simpson suggested: "Efforts should be made to standardize care across the UK, incorporating a maximum waiting time of 48 hours. In Northern Ireland, we are a very long way short of the one [GUM] consultant per 120,000 population recommended by the Royal College of Physicians."
In the past year, some 1,321 teenagers have contacted sexual health clinics in Northern Ireland after acquiring an STD. Among patients, two-thirds were girls, 100 were age 15, and 25 were 14 or younger. Initial teen patient visits have doubled in just three years. Since 2001, at least 4,414 teens have contacted GUM clinics with STDs including syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and genital warts.