The number of cases of syphilis in England has hit the highest level since 1949, according to new figures from Public Health England.

The data show 5,920 diagnoses of the sexually transmitted infection (STI) reported in 2016, which marks a 12 percent increase relative to the year prior and the largest number in nearly 70 years.

The agency says the figures follow the recent rising trend in cases of the disease, which have rocketed by 97 percent (from 3,001 to 5,920) since 2012, mostly associated with transmission in gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men.

The PHE figures also show there were around 420,000 STIs reported in England in 2016. While this is down 4 percent since 2015, the number is still “unacceptably high”, says Terrence Higgins Trust medical director Dr. Michael Brady.

“We’re facing huge challenges, such as the continued rise of syphilis and ongoing concerns around drug-resistant gonorrohea, and we urgently need to address the nation’s poor sexual health and rates of STIs in those most at risk.

“In this climate of cuts to local authorities’ public health budgets, this is particularly concerning. Now is not the time to be scaling back sexual health services. Cuts to chlamydia testing for example are having a visible impact, with [the] figures showing that there has been a 9 percent decrease in the number of chlamydia tests taken.”

The Trusts is calling on Public Health England, the Department of Health and local authorities to ensure improved access to effective STI and HIV testing, treatment and prevention services. “Otherwise, we cannot expect to address the ongoing sexual health crisis," Dr Brady warned.