The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) issued a warning encouraging condom use when having sex with a new partner, especially younger people who are most likely to spread STIs.
Last year, gonorrhoea diagnoses rocketed to 82,592 – a 50 per cent rise from 2021 – and there were more than 400 diagnoses every day in the 15-24 age group.
Though STIs are usually easily treated with antibiotics, many can cause serious health issues if left untreated.
“It is very important to be aware of the risks of catching STIs from condomless sex,” said Dr Katy Sinka, head of sexually transmitted diseases at UKHSA.
“STIs can have serious consequences and there are very high numbers of STIs at the moment – but there are some easy steps you can take to reduce your risk of infection.
“If you’re a student going to university for the first time or returning for a new year, it’s a good idea to get tested before you start having sex.”
Chlamydia and gonorrhoea can cause infertility and pelvic inflammatory disease, while syphilis can cause serious, irreversible and potentially life-threatening problems with your brain, heart, or nerves.
Many people do not show symptoms which is why anyone who has had unprotected sex is encouraged to get tested before having sex with a new partner.
Dr Sinka added: “Condoms are the best defence against STIs. If you didn’t use one the last time you had sex with a new or casual partner please do get tested even if you are not showing any symptoms, it’s free and confidential.”
The UKHSA said that while the increase in gonorrhoea diagnoses was in part due to increases in testing, the scale of the rise strongly suggests that there is more transmission.
Laura Domegan, head of nursing at sexual health charity Brook, said: “The stats speak for themselves, it’s never been more important to think about condoms and testing.
“Condoms are the only method that protect us from STIs so make sure you have some handy and know where to get more.”