Bristol has the highest rate of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the South West according to government data. The city’s council has increased its spending on testing and treatment for STIs by close to a third in the last five years - considerably more than any other authority in the region.
Bristol City Council forked out £5,194,000, around £13 per person, on STI testing and treatment, sexual health advice, prevention, and promotion, up 31% compared to the £3,964,165 spent in 2015. It also more than doubled its spending on contraceptive work from 2015 - 2021. In 2015, £1,618,097 was spent on the work compared to a whopping £3,658,000 last year - a 126.1% rise.
These investments buck a national trend during which sexual health services across England have seen £221 million cut from their annual spending in five years, despite rates of sexually transmitted infections remaining high. In Bristol, 616.5 out of every 100,000 residents are expected to have an STI according to the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities.
The neighbouring Bath and North East Somerset region recorded 348.9 STIs per every 100,000 people while South Gloucestershire reported 297.4. Elsewhere in the South West, Cornwall has 279.1 STIs per every 100,000 people and North Somerset has 229.6
Sexual health charity Brook said the cost to individuals and society because of untreated STIs, late identification of HIV status, and unintended pregnancies is “extremely high” and that significant government investment was required to stop more services from closing.
Brook’s head of policy and public affairs, Lisa Hallgarten, said the charity had “consistently voiced concern about the level of cuts to sexual health services since 2015”.
She said: “Investing in sexual and reproductive health is good prevention, vital health promotion, and is good value for money. It’s baffling why successive governments have failed to invest in this vital aspect of healthcare. Year-on-year cuts to public health budgets have resulted in cuts and closures of sexual health services, including specialist young people’s services and services in some of the most deprived areas of England.”