New figures from Public Health England released by the Office for National Statistics show the great benefit of the mass immunisation programme against HPV which has been rolled out in schools for young women.
There were 441 diagnoses of first episode genital warts in 15 to 17 year old girls in 2017, a 90% decrease relative to 2009 and an early expression of the success of the national HPV immunisation programme.
Health and LGBT rights campaigners have been arguing that the HPV programme would have even more effect if all young people were immunised, both for the benefit of young men who have sex with men, who are not currently given any protection against HPV, and for greater “herd immunity” effect for sexually active young people regardless of gender and sexual orientation.
This campaign recently saw a breakthrough with the Scottish and Welsh governments announcing a shift to give the vaccine regardless of gender. In England the authorities are reviewing evidence but surely now both neighbouring countries have stepped forward they will follow?
The Public Health England report also reveals that while the overall rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) remained stable in 2017 compared to 2016, there was a 20% increase in syphilis (from 5,955 cases in 2016 to 7,137 cases in 2017).
The increase in syphilis follows a 10-year trend, with 78% of diagnoses in bisexual, gay and other men who have sex with men.
Across all STIs, the highest rates of diagnoses continue to be seen in 16 to 24 year olds.
In 2017, there were approximately 422,000 diagnoses of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) made in England, around the same number that was reported in 2016.
There were 7,137 diagnoses of syphilis reported in 2017, a 20% increase (from 5,955) relative to the year prior and a 148% increase relative to 2008.
There were 44,676 diagnoses of gonorrhoea reported in 2017, a 22% increase (from 36,577) relative to the year prior.