11 June 2024

Campaign encourages more doctors to specialise in sexual health amid rising STIs

11 June 2024

A campaign has been launched to encourage more doctors to specialise in sexual health, amid soaring levels of gonorrhoea and syphilis.

The leading organisation for sexual health and HIV professionals in the UK said genitourinary medicine (Gum) doctors are needed “now more than ever”.

On Tuesday, the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (Bashh) launched its LoveGum campaign to encourage more junior doctors to consider the “attractive career path”.

It comes amid rising STIs, with levels of gonorrhoea in England now at the highest level since records began in 1918 and new diagnoses of syphilis at levels not seen since 1948.

Bashh said its campaign would highlight “the rewarding nature of Gum”, adding that the field “incorporates clinical skills and knowledge from a wide variety of areas”.

A survey conducted by Bashh suggested that over two thirds (68%) of Gum doctors, who investigate, diagnose, and manage STIs and HIV, enjoy the variety of their work and 82% “most enjoy that Gum offers a good work-life balance”.

The association said a strengthened Gum workforce was vital to meet a rising demand for services and to ensure preparedness for future public health challenges.

Bassh president Professor Matt Phillips said the campaign would champion “the crucial and brilliant specialty of genitourinary medicine” and encourage junior doctors to consider it “when making decisions about their specialty”.

Prof Phillips said: “We need Gum physicians now more than ever.

“With rising STI rates and increasing demand for a range of services from sexual health care settings, we need a robust, highly skilled workforce in place.

“Genitourinary medicine is an evolving specialty that truly serves the whole population, including people who are frequently underrepresented in health.”

Gum doctors make a difference in the everyday, from helping people have safe and good sex to longer-term chronic STIs and HIV management

Gum consultant and Channel 4 TV doctor Dr Naomi Sutton said she was “proud” to endorse the campaign, adding that it “champions the Gum specialty and the value it has on individuals and society”.

Dr Sutton said: “The impact Gum physicians can have on patients’ lives is immense.

“As Gum doctors we are tasked with developing unique connections with our patients, ensuring people are met with non-judgmental, expert care.

“Gum doctors make a difference in the everyday, from helping people have safe and good sex to longer-term chronic STIs and HIV management.

“The reason I love going to work every day is because I can see the impact I can have on someone’s sexual and overarching health – because you cannot separate the two.”

Bashh said the number of consultations delivered by sexual health services in England in 2023 reached a record 4.61 million, a 5% increase from the year before, and a 44.3% increase from 2019.

It added that Gum physicians were at the “frontline of delivering the HIV Action Plan to end new HIV transmissions by 2030”, while also supporting an increasing cohort of people growing old with HIV.

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox