In Spain, but also in other countries in the world, there is an explosion in the number of STIs. Despite the increase in condom sales, these diseases are spreading rapidly. Experts speak of ‘the next pandemic‘ if action is not taken quickly.
General director Pablo Fernández of the Open House Clinic in Madrid, which specialises in sexually transmitted diseases, says HIV cases have fallen, but rates of other STDs — such as gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia — have exploded in recent years.
How is the rise in STIs explained in Spain?
“The lack of information and knowledge, the increase in unprotected sexual relationships and the rise of ‘flirt apps’, where sexual contacts are made very easily, are at the root of this explosive increase in the number of STIs. The increase in the number of STIs is particularly large among young people between the ages of 20 and 35. Considerable growth can also be seen in the group of 16-25 year olds.
The increase reached a historic peak in 2021, which is also the last year for which figures have been published. For example, gonorrhea has risen from 5,170 cases in 2015 to more than 15,000 in 2021. In the same time, the number of cases of syphilis has doubled. Chlamydia incidences have now risen to more than 48 per 100,000 people who are diagnosed with this condition.
Why more STIs if more condoms are also sold?
Since the end of the pandemic, condom sales have increased by 51%. However, this trend has not been able to stop the growth in the number of STIs. The main reason for this is that the STIs that are transmitted are mainly transmitted through oral sex. A specialist explains that people mainly use a condom during penetration, but hardly ever during oral sex. van
In addition, people are less afraid of diseases such as HIV and AIDS, mainly because better medicines are available to control them. People do use contraception but are more likely to opt for the pill or an IUD to prevent pregnancy. However, these drugs do not provide protection against STIs.
Are STDs the next pandemic?
The management of Open House Clinics indicates that awareness and sharing knowledge is one of the most important barriers that we have to break through in Spain. “STDs are still a taboo in Spain that are not talked about. Information campaigns are therefore desperately needed. Sometimes people don’t know that STIs are transmitted through oral sex, or that you can have an STI without experiencing any symptoms. But in the latter case you can pass on your STI to another bed partner,” says director Pablo Fernández of Open House Clinics. So the use of condoms is vital. Even when you experience symptoms, it is important that people get tested to break the circle.
According to the WHO, one million people contract an STI every day. Experts therefore speak of ‘the next pandemic’. Only with the right information can people make decisions that are good for their own health and therefore for that of others.