State of the Nation

Guest blog by Amber Newbigging-Lister, Policy and Campaigns Officer, Terrence Higgins Trust.

STIs are soaring, sexual health services are overstretched and public health funding continues to be cut in England. Sexual health inequalities, hindered access, changing behaviours and STI stigma, all contribute to further challenges in the sector.

Terrence Higgins Trust and British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) have launched their new report ‘Sexually transmitted infections in England: The State of the Nation’. With a stocktake of current evidence, the report has attempted to answer the what and why questions of STIs facing us today.


New STI diagnoses rose by 5% in 2018 from 2017, with new diagnoses of gonorrhoea and syphilis increasing by 249% and 165% respectively over the past decade. STIs disproportionately impact certain groups: men who have sex men make up 75% of all new syphilis diagnoses; 20% of new diagnoses are in people from specific ethnic minority communities; and young people account for nearly half of all new diagnoses.

A host of potential challenges perpetuate the trends seen in STIs, exacerbated by the lack of national vision around STIs and the impact of funding cuts. Both impact on access in the face of rising demand for sexual health services. The report highlights a need for more up-to-date research and data across STI trends, inequalities, behaviours, access, and stigma. Without this data, we struggle to identify clearly why we are seeing these trends.

There are some successes. The HPV vaccine has seen major decreases in genital warts among women, and with the expansion of this programme to boys and men who have sex with men, the success is likely to continue. This success can point to what’s missing in other areas of STI prevention.

The report makes several recommendations, including the timely delivery of a cross-system and fully funded national sexual health strategy. While the government has committed to this, the question remains on what the process and timeline for the strategy will be.

But what can those working in the health and, in particular, the sexual health sector do?

To address inequalities in sexual health, the sector needs to ensure the co-production of future research and policies, and look at the broader context in which STIs occur. Recognising the social determinants of health, we need to question why people from marginalised groups experience worse burdens of STIs, and what we can do about it.

By empowering the voices of sexual health community champions, we can tackle STI stigma and encourage a change in knowledge, perceptions and actions, as well as the visibility of STIs. As a sector, we can help encourage conversations, positive messaging and stigma busting that can positively impact STI outcomes and engage people in services.

The support of strategy and funding is essential. The government needs to recognise and reinforce the important role of sexual health charities, health professionals, and community organisations. It is through such collaboration that we can improve the picture of STIs for the nation.

HPE Conference 2020 registration now open

HPE Conference 2020 registration open - tuesday 18 february, mary ward house, london

Please note our first release tickets have now sold out and our waiting list is open.

We’re delighted to announce that registration for the HPE Conference 2020 is now open.

The conference programme will explore ways to improve the nation’s sexual health, reduce the rising rates in sexually transmitted infections and reach zero new HIV diagnoses by 2030.

This event will provide a platform for open discussion as well as practical learning opportunities that delegates can take back to their organisations, clinics and other places of work.

The conference will take place on Tuesday 18 February 2020 at the Mary Ward House Conference Centre in central London. It is free to attend for all those working in sexual health and HIV prevention.

Conference registration

When: Tuesday 18 February 2020
Where: Mary Ward House, 7 Tavistock Place, London, WC1H 9SN

Register today

National HIV Testing Week 2019 Social Media Pack

We’ve created a social media pack to make it easy for you to get involved in National HIV Testing Week 2019 and promote local activities, as well as the opportunity to order a free postal test through It Starts With Me.

What’s in the pack?

  • Images: a selection of correctly sized images for use on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other social network.
  • Suggested posts: examples of posts for Facebook and Instagram plus tweets for Twitter.
  • Links: the suggested posts for Facebook and Twitter also contain links to the It Starts With Me online testing tools and the self-sampling postal test service.

Download via Dropbox

Download via Wetransfer (link updated 11 November)

Key messages

This year, the campaign will feature celebrities and influencers promoting ‘Give HIV the finger: a finger-prick test is all it takes’, a continuation of the successful creative that we have run for the last two years.

Our key messages for this year’s campaign are:

  • Testing for HIV is easy, all it takes is a finger-prick test.
    People can live with HIV for a long time without any symptoms, testing is the only way to know your HIV status.
    Anyone diagnosed with HIV in the UK can access free treatment and support.
    If you have HIV, finding out means you can start treatment, stay healthy and avoid passing the virus onto anyone else.
    There are more ways than ever to test – in a sexual health service, your GP, through community organisations and via online testing.


This year’s hashtag is #HIVTestWeek. Hashtags are not case sensitive so using #hivtestweek would work as well – we’ve just used capitals to make it easier to read what the hashtag is about.

Coming soon: campaign videos.

National HIV Testing Week 2019 resources now available

Resources available for National Health Testing Week 2019

Free resources to promote HIV testing this National HIV Testing Week are now available to order.

This year’s resources include:

  • posters,
  • leaflets,
  • condom packs,
  • stickers,
  • display stands,
  • a limited number of T-shirts.

Take part in the campaign

This year, the campaign will feature celebrities and influencers promoting ‘Give HIV the finger: a finger-prick test is all it takes’, a continuation of the successful creative that we have run for the last two years.

National HIV Testing Week starts on Saturday 16 November 2019 and aims to promote regular testing among the most affected population groups and to reduce the number of people who are diagnosed late or remain undiagnosed.

We are inviting organisations to participate by running campaign events, providing extra testing opportunities, and promoting HIV testing and prevention services with our support.

Order your resources today