How NHS Cuts Will Increase the Spread of STIs

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With local authorities reducing the funding for education initiatives and specialist clinics, cases of sexually transmitted infections are multiplying.

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Spending Cuts

Analysis from the King’s Fund, the health charity, has revealed that spending on sexual health, promotion and advice has fallen by 34 per cent from 2014 to 2018. These budgets paid for initiatives such as encouraging condom use, STI testing kits and free contraceptives.

The cuts have had the biggest impact upstream, with cutbacks to primary prevention services which work to promote safer sexual behaviour.

Total council spending has dropped by 14 per cent according to statistics, from £668m in 2013/14 to £572m in 2017/18. One of the biggest causes behind this reduction is thought to be the council’s takeover of responsibilities for public health in 2013 from the NHS. This was part of the Government’s overhaul of the Health Service, which has been labelled as damaging by experts.

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88 per cent of councils across the UK cut spending on sexual health services, while 12 per cent increased spending. Spending on STI treatment and testing also fell by 10 per cent to £364m while contraceptive services fell by 15 per cent to £161m.

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The Rise in STIs

The spending reductions for local authorities across the country come at an extremely troubling time, as STIs such as gonorrhoea are on the rise.

According to recent statistics, STIs have risen by 20 per cent over the last few years with formerly eradicated diseases such as syphilis making a comeback. Gonorrhoea has also risen by 22 per cent.

In some regions, clinics have been moved or closed or operate with limited opening hours. In some cases, individuals with symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases are being refused services.

If services are fragmented and cut, it poses a significant risk of rising rates in unplanned pregnancies and even further increases in STDs. There is also a concern that people may not be able to gain access to anti-HIV drugs as services become limited; therefore, there could potentially be a rise in HIV cases.

Although it is not clear whether spending cuts have contributed in the rise of certain STDs like syphilis, studies have shown that factors including lack of condom use are likely to be crucial.


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