People urged to get gonorrhea tests as cases rise

  • By Michelle Roberts
  • Digital Health Writer

source of images, Getty Images

Cases of gonorrhea in England have resurfaced since the easing of Covid restrictions, health officials warn sexually active people.

Condoms can stop the spread of this infection and other sexually transmitted infections.

Provisional data shows that diagnoses in the first nine months of 2022 reached 56,327, up 21% from the same period of 2019.

People should practice safer sex and get tested regularly if they have sex with new or casual partners, experts say.

Typical symptoms of gonorrhea include thick green or yellow discharge from the vagina or penis.

But some people will have no symptoms, especially for infections of the throat, vagina, or rectum.

Experts say people should practice safer sex and get tested regularly if they have sex with new or casual partners.

The tests are simple, free and discreet, they advise.

What is gonorrhea?

The disease is caused by bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae.

The infection is transmitted through unprotected vaginal, oral and anal sex.

Symptoms may include thick green or yellow discharge from the sexual organs, pain with urination, and bleeding between periods.

However, vaginal and rectal infections often have no symptoms.

An untreated infection can lead to infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, and can be passed on to a child during pregnancy.

Dr Claire Dewsnap, from the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, said: “The increase in cases of gonorrhea is a reminder of the importance of testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and wearing a condom at every sexual encounter.

“By getting tested at least once a year, whether or not you have symptoms, you can help minimize the risk of catching or transmitting STIs through sex.

“Delaying access to the right care and treatment also risks developing longer-term problems that may be more difficult to resolve. If you are concerned about the transmission of STIs, sexual health clinics are here to help.”

How to get tested

There are several places you can go to get tested for gonorrhea:

  • a sexual health clinic (sometimes also called a GUM clinic)
  • your doctor’s office
  • a birth control and youth clinic
  • a private clinic

It is possible to buy a test for gonorrhea in the pharmacy to do it yourself at home. However, these tests vary in accuracy, so it is recommended that you visit your local sexual health department.

All tests are free through the NHS, but you will have to pay if you go to a private clinic.

Dr Katy Sinka, head of the UK Health Safety Agency’s STI section, reminded people: “You can get free condoms at your local sexual health clinic and if you’re under 25 you can also get them online.”

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