Dangerous liaisons: why syphilis and gonorrhoea have returned to haunt Britain
Clinic appointments fill up in minutes and babies are once again being born with syphilis – what is behind Britain’s sexual health crisis?
People are being insufficiently selective about who they stick it in – or who they allow to do so.
But what is ringing alarm bells is a rise in cases of gonorrhoea, up tenfold since 2008, and syphilis, an infection that had virtually been wiped out in Britain but is now running at levels not seen since the second world war. The rise is mainly among men who have sex with men, but not entirely. The Victorian spectre of babies born with syphilis is back, with three newborns infected by their pregnant mothers last year.
“When I started working in an STD clinic in 1988, syphilis had been eradicated in Britain. It took 18 months before I saw a single person with syphilis for the first time. Last week, we saw five or six in a day,” says French, who also works with the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV. “It’s the same with gonorrhoea; it became rather uncommon with the advent of HIV. And now it has become really common. Something really dramatic has happened.”
Yep, lack of selectivity.