Sexual health services in Wirral are reduced despite rising STIs and late HIV diagnoses

SEXUAL health services in Wirral have faced a reduction in real terms of over £400,000 since 2013.

Funding for sexual health services under the Public Health Grant was £2,937,896, around £52,000 less than in 2013.

Adjusting for inflation, the services have faced a funding loss of more than £447,000 over the past decade. Its share of the subsidy also decreased by 2%.

At the same time, rates of several sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have increased and late diagnoses of HIV remain above average.

A Wirral Council spokesperson said: ‘Wirral’s sexual health service will be back in service from 2024. As part of this, we are carrying out an in-depth analysis of sexual health in Wirral and we look forward to ensure residents of Wirral receive the best sexual and reproductive health services.

Chlamydia detection dropped by 64% among 15-24 year olds, which if undiagnosed in women can lead to infertility. Gonorrhea diagnoses more than doubled between 2012 and 2019, but decreased to 50 per 100,000 people in 2020.

During this period, testing has declined and is currently the lowest since 2012 based on the latest available data. In 2020, testing was down almost 36% at a time when many services were closed due to the covid pandemic.

A spokesperson for the Wirral Council said: “The number of people screened for chlamydia and detection rates have declined nationally and regionally. Wirral continues this trend, we continue to be one of the top performers for scouting in the North West.

“Work is underway nationwide to reconfigure chlamydia testing and reduce the number of people with chlamydia.

“Chlamydia detection has declined in 2020 due to the covid pandemic. We are working hard with our service as they continue to recover from covid and adapt to new pressures such as monkeypox.

Some trends have been more positive, with the diagnosis rate for all STIs falling by 72% between 2014 and 2020. Diagnoses of gonorrhea and syphilis are all below the national average

Diagnoses of genital herpes and warts have dropped. The number of teenage pregnancies has also decreased, but remains below the national average.

The Wirral council oversees the provision of sexual health services through the government’s public health grant. Last year, the Health Foundation found that the subsidy had been reduced by 24% in real terms since 2015.

Councilor Jason Walsh, who sits on Wirral’s health committee, said: ‘Well, that’s disappointing. I am surprised that the NHS is being asked to do more with less money and resources.

“Cuts in funding are certainly linked to an increase in cases. If you don’t have adequate funding, you are unable to provide the world-class service we all deserve.

Cllr Walsh said the late diagnosis figures were “serious” and “something that shouldn’t be happening”.

HIV testing in Wirral has increased by 20% since 2013, but late diagnosis is 12% higher than the UK average. Wirral’s council said that due to the small number of people involved, this figure is still within the margin of error.

HIV testing among men who have sex with men is above the national average at 83.5% and more people living with HIV are on effective treatment than average.

A spokesperson for the Wirral Council said: “Since 2020 pre-exposure prophylaxis (PREP) has been part of our core service package, and this will help in the fight against HIV in Wirral.

“We are working with our main providers and tailor-made services for high-risk and vulnerable communities to ensure that the number of people infected with HIV remains low in Wirral, and that people living with HIV are detected early and receive the right treatment to continue leading a normal life.

The UK government has pledged to end all HIV transmission by 2030. Many HIV-positive people are able to receive effective treatment, which means they do not pass on the virus and can lead normal lives. .

However, early diagnosis is important to reduce the risk of transmission and means more people can make a full recovery.

Anthony Hopkinson, CEO of Sahir House – a sexual health charity, said HIV testing is consistent across the Liverpool area and is “going in the right direction”.

“The HIV-positive population is now an aging cohort and what we need to do is make sure they age well with HIV.

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