Syphilis is re-emerging across Northern Ireland, according to leading sexual health experts, who are calling for the health minister to tackle the outbreak.
Doctors say they are seeing a “worrying increase” in the number of cases of syphilis in Northern Ireland. The latest available STI surveillance figures show that in 2011, 52 new cases were diagnosed, but Dr Wallace Dinsmore of the GUM clinic at the Royal Victoria Hospital says those statistics are out of date, “ Syphilis is something that we thought had gone from the province, now it is a daily occurrence. We have cases of babies affected by syphilis once every two weeks, which is something we had not seen for decades. The service has been under invested for the past 30 or 40 years, despite the sharp rise in incidence of STIs, including Syphilis.”
Medical experts say that the spread of the infection is due to people having unprotected. With NI Sexual Health Week beginning on today (February 10), agencies are coming together to appeal for the health minister to take action.
North Belfast DUP MLA, Paula Bradley, chair of the All Party Group on Sexual Health, has organised an event at Stormont tomorrow, to raise awareness among the public and politicians, “Syphilis is spreading, as is Gonorrhoea and it is clear that sexual health services are under real pressure, I know that those working at the GUM clinic in the Royal are finding it really hard to cope with the level of demand, we need to look at ways to alleviate the pressure on the system through the use of innovative technology which could speed up the testing process. We need investment in the service and to get sexual health on the agenda at Stormont”.
It isn’t just the NHS services seeing an increase in demand, private clinics are also experiencing a soar in numbers, as is Randox, which has developed the Confidante home STI test kit.
Dr Gary Smyth Medical Director at Confidante, says the public need to take Syphilis seriously, “Syphilis is an STI which if left untreated can cause mental deterioration, blindness, deafness, all sorts of issues with the central nervous system and eventually leads to early death. Pregnant women can pass the condition on to their unborn baby, which can cause stillbirth or death of the baby shortly after labour…We need to encourage anyone who thinks they may be infected to take the test, whether that is by using a kit at home or by visiting the GUM clinic’’.
The Sexual Health Week launch event will take place at STORMONT, MEMBERS DININGROOM, on Tuesday February 11 from 9.30am until 12.30pm.
Sexual Health Week is aimed at raising awareness of sexual health, STIs in Northern Ireland and testing and treatment. The event is hosted by the All Party Group on Sexual Health – Chair Paula Bradley MLA (DUP), sponsored by the FPA
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