Syphilis is back! Spread the word not the infection …. is a new hard-hitting campaign launched across the county following the publication of data that shows Herefordshire has one of highest rates of diagnosed syphilis in the West Midlands.
West Midlands Enhanced Syphilis Surveillance Scheme (ESSS) data, highlights that Herefordshire observed the highest rate of diagnosed syphilis for 2011 and 2013 and the second highest for 2012. As a result, the council’s public health department and Wye Valley NHS Trust’s integrated sexual health (iSH) service are working in partnership to try and tackle the problem.
Dr Catherine Chima-Okereke, Sexual Health consultant at Wye Valley NHS Trust, said: “We know that the current outbreak is focussed on men (both men who have sex with men and straight men), but women are at risk too.
“Anyone who has had unprotected sex, especially oral sex, is at risk of syphilis as well as other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Syphilis is infectious in its early stages although there are often no symptoms so you wouldn’t even know if you had it.
“Left untreated, it can cause serious health problems and permanent damage to many organs, including the eyes, heart and brain. The only way that you can prevent catching or spreading the infection is to avoid sexual contact.
“Condoms used correctly and consistently every time you have sex, will reduce your risk of catching STIs including syphilis and HIV so it is important that you use a new condom every time you have sex … and that includes oral sex.”
Anyone who is sexually active is encouraged to have regular free, confidential testing. They can simply walk into the sexual health clinic at Gaol Street, Hereford, Monday-Friday from 9-11am without an appointment or pre book an appointment by ringing the service on 01432 378915. For further information, visit www.wyevalley.nhs.uk/ish.