Young people in Cornwall are being urged to practice safe sex following a rise in sexually transmitted infections (STI) – particularly gonorrhoea.
Cornwall Council’s Public Health team is also encouraging anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to an STI to ‘get tested, get treated’.
Those most at risk are people who have casual sex and don’t use a condom.
Nationally, diagnoses of gonorrhoea from January to September 2022 were almost a quarter (21%) higher than those reported over the same period in 2019.
The latest figures also indicate that during the first nine months of 2022, gonorrhoea cases were higher than those reported over the same period in each of the last three years.
Cornwall is showing a similar trend, with half of the cases in the county over the past 18 months relating to younger adults aged 15 to 23 and 80% of cases among those aged 15 to 34.
Dr Ruth Goldstein, assistant director of public health at the Council, said: “The rise in STIs and particularly gonorrhoea in Cornwall is concerning so we are reminding people to use condoms every time they have sex and to get tested regularly if having sex with new or casual partners.
“You can get free condoms at your local sexual health clinic and if you’re under 25, you can also get them online. Testing is free and discrete, and you should get tested even if you are not showing any symptoms.
“Anyone with symptoms of an STI, or who is concerned they may have one, should seek advice from a sexual health clinic. It is also important to tell all sexual partners if you get an STI, which your clinician can help with and can be done anonymously.”
Cllr Dr Andy Virr, Cornwall Council’s portfolio holder for adults and public health, said: "The increase in STIs and gonorrhoea cases serves as a reminder of the importance of testing for STIs and wearing a condom every time you have sex.
“By getting tested at least once a year, whether you’re showing symptoms or not, you can help reduce the risk of catching or passing on STIs when having sex. Any delay in accessing the right care and treatment also means you are at greater risk of developing longer term problems which can be more difficult to address.
“If you are concerned about STI transmission, sexual health clinics are on hand to help”.
Kay Rundle, Senior Service Manager for charity Brook, which runs sexual health services across Cornwall, said: “Gonorrhoea can be passed from one person to another through unprotected sex. So the best advice we could give anyone is to use a condom. Condoms are the only method of contraception that can protect you from STIs.
“But if you’ve had unprotected sex, don’t worry – testing and treatment are straightforward and we are here to help. The test is quick and easy to do – be it by yourself with a home STI test kit that you can order online or in a clinic where our nurses will make you feel as comfortable and supported as possible.”
Gonorrhoea – what you need to know:
People infected with gonorrhoea will often have no symptoms, especially for infections in the throat, vagina or rectum. This lack of symptoms makes it important to test regularly when having sex with new or casual partners
Symptoms of Gonorrhoea include a thick green or yellow discharge from the penis or vagina, pain when peeing, pain and discomfort in the rectum, and, in women and other people with uteruses or ovaries, lower abdomen pain and bleeding in between periods are typical symptoms of gonorrhoea
Some STIs, such as gonorrhoea, can become resistant to antibiotics, which makes them more difficult to treat
Treating gonorrhoea as soon as possible is very important as, if left untreated, it can lead to serious long-term health problems. In women and other people with a uterus or ovaries, gonorrhoea can spread to the reproductive organs and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
PID can lead to long-term pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancy and infertility. In men and other people with testes, it can cause a painful infection in the testicles and prostate gland, which may lead to reduced fertility in some cases
You can order tests online here: www.sexualhealthcornwall.co.uk/online-sti-tests/sti-home-testing and order free condoms here: www.sexualhealthcornwall.co.uk/more-services/c-card/