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Thursday, 7 December, 2000, 11:19 GMT
Sex diseases on the increase
Safe sex would cut sexually transmitted disease rates
Safe sex would cut sexually transmitted disease rates
The rate of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) is on the increase across Europe, reports a leading scientist.

Dr Angus Nicoll, of the Public Health Laboratory Service, warned that the increase posed a growing threat to public health throughout the continent.

He told a conference at London's Royal Society of Medicine on Thursday that the figures were "worrying".

Cases of gonorrhoea among heterosexuals in England rose by 30% in a year, with a 40% rise amongst teenagers.

There are also signs of an increase in the number of STDs such as gonorrhoea and syphilis among homosexual men.

Dr Nicoll, who is director of the PHLS Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre, said this could be a sign "complacency" in gay men about the dangers of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Data from other parts of western Europe is less complete, but also indicates negative trends.

Dr Nicoll said: "In the early 1990s some authorities in countries like Sweden and the UK were looking forward to the local elimination of gonorrhoea - that seems like a distant dream."

Growing resistance

Gonorrhoea rates at monitored sites increased in the late 1990s in the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and France as well as the UK.

In addition levels of antibiotic resistance in these organisms were increasing, suggesting current antibiotic therapies may not be effective in the future.

The greatest increases have been seen in Eastern Europe and the former USSR.

The rises in gonorrhoea and outbreaks of syphilis in homosexual males concerned experts, because this group still accounts for the majority of HIV transmission in Northern Europe.

Complacency has also set in official circles in some countries in continental Europe where HIV is seen as yesterday's problem

Angus Nicoll

Dr Nicoll suggested the rises in other STDs suggested complacency had set in among some gay men.

He said: "HIV prevention efforts among gay men have largely stalled and there is a danger that HIV transmission will start returning to its high levels of the early 1980s, if it has not done so already."

"Complacency has also set in official circles in some countries in continental Europe where HIV is seen as yesterday's problem."

But he said the opposite was true.

He warned because of the new HIV infections being added to the population and new therapies stopping people from dying from HIV, levels of people requiring HIV care are set to rise by 40% between the end of 1993 and 2003.

This will mean a rise of over 100% since the end of 1996.

Increased cost

Dr Nicoll said that will mean much more cost for Europe - and estimated spending in England alone would rise by around 40 million next year.

He added that also meant there had never been so many HIV infected people in Europe.

Dr Nicoll warned: "Europe is now far more of a mixing pot than the United States for HIV and other STDs.

"For European men and women changing sexual partners the likelihood that their next partner will be carrying HIV has never been higher - safe sex and prevention have never been more important"

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See also:

20 Sep 00 | Health
Sex disease checks - by post
18 Feb 00 | Health
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12 Apr 00 | Health
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24 Mar 00 | Health
Sex disease cases rise
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