Explosion of sexually transmitted diseases as infection rate trebles

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Cases of sexually transmitted infections have trebled in a decade, according to new figures.

The NHS is now facing calls to "redouble" efforts to deal with the problem after increases were recorded in genital herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and HIV across Scotland between 1999 and 2009.

The sharpest rise was in cases of genital chlamydia, which can lead to infertility. Reported diagnoses increased from 5,676 to 18,277, according to Scottish Government figures.

Last night, the Conservative Party, which obtained the details, said the increases painted a "hugely worrying picture".

Tory public health spokeswoman Nanette Milne said: "These figures look at an entire decade and paint a hugely worrying picture of sexual health in Scotland. Although part of the increase will be down to more people getting themselves checked up, this will not account for anything like the majority of these figures.

"It is clear the approach adopted by successive governments in Scotland has not reversed the trend, and that is why we need to focus much more on educating younger people about the consequences and symptoms of these diseases. Only by knowing what they are letting themselves in for can we hope to avert the problem."

Diagnoses of genital herpes increased from 933 to 2,627 over the decade, while cases of gonorrhoea increased from 538 to 1,021.

Figures for infectious syphilis were not available for 1999 but showed an increase from four cases in 2000 to 189 in 2009.

The number of HIV-infected people increased from 156 in 1999 to 360 in 2010.

For the decade from 1999, the total number for all five infections went from 7,303 to 22,540.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We are committed to driving down the number of sexually transmitted infections and have invested significantly in recent years in our sexual health strategy, Respect And Responsibility.

"These figures follow improvements to services which have led to an increase in testing and, in turn, an increase in detections."

Scottish Labour's public health spokesman Dr Richard Simpson said that the figures are "deeply concerning".

He added: "It is vital that age-appropriate education on sexual health and relationships is available, not just in schools but also by other means.

"The fact is, sexually transmitted infections can have devastating consequences, not just in the short term but later on in life."

Lib Dem health spokeswoman Alison McInnes yesterday called on ministers to step up efforts to deal with the issue.

"These figures show that the government needs to redouble its efforts to get the safer-sex message over to everyone," the North East MSP said."The figures relating to chlamydia are particularly worrying, given the long-term impacts on fertility."

Public health minister Shona Robison warned in 2007 there was still "much work to do" to improve Scotland's sexual health after a report warned of rising rates of STIs among young women in Scotland.

The NHS figures also found under-25s accounted for 61 per cent of all STI diagnoses made in specialist clinics in 2007.

The government said at the time it was developing a social marketing campaign to promote better sexual health.

It also emerged in 2007 that 281 Scottish children under 16 had contracted an STI. Figures showed that 181 youngsters tested positive for chlamydia.

Ministers said at the time they planned to increase the number of drop-in clinics in remote and rural areas where youngsters can get advice on sexual health issues.