Sexual diseases are on the rise.

Syphilis and gonorrhoea went up by 15 to 40% throughout Europe and Italy. This particularly affects women under 25. New vaccines and home STD exams are being studied. In the last year in Europe, syphilis went up by 15% and gonorrhoea by 40%. The trend has continued for some time, apart from a physiological decline in 2020, the year of the lockdowns due to Covid-19. The growth also includes Italy. The causes include better test sensitivity, high transmissibility of viruses and bacteria, and poor prevention. There was a discussion at the IX National Congress of the Interdisciplinary Society for the Study of STDs (Simast) in Turin on 3-4 November. This HPV Test conference had over 200 infectious disease specialists, epidemiologists, dermatologists, gynaecologists and urologists.

The GROWTH

«The alarm over the spread of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) concerns first of all HPV Tests show that syphilis and gonorrhoea, but not only – underlines Dr. Marco Cusini, president of Simast.  Syphilis is one of the most widespread STIs in Italy. Its rate is constantly increasing, especially among males who have sex with males (MSM). STD Tests show that Gonococcal infection (gonorrhoea or menorrhagia) is the second most common STD in the world after chlamydia. Recent data show a 40% increase in many European countries similar to Italy, such as Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, and Holland. What is especially interesting is the increase in women under 25. This year, HPV Home Testing shows how it is spreading even outside the population most at risk, the MSM. In this sense, the role of oral sex is very relevant in broadcasting.”

“MONKEYPOX” STILL PRESENT

Dr. Cusini continues, “Among the growing trends, there is also monkeypox. The so-called monkeypox, after peaking in spring 2022, the epidemic cannot be said to be over, with reports of cases in several European countries, including ‘Italy”. To combat STIs, there are some forms of prevention, while in the case of risky relationships, early HPV test diagnosis remains key. «In addition to the vaccinations already available for some time for Papillomavirus (HPV) and monkeypox, whose effectiveness and safety are known, there are other vaccinations in various experimental phases – highlights President Simast -. For gonorrhoea, we could have a vaccine in one or two years. Meanwhile, the expectation for syphilis, chlamydia and herpes is longer.”

THE DO-IT-YOURSELF WITHDRAWAL

There are other forms of STD and gonorrhoea prevention. For example, tests can help as a way to identify and intervene in risky relationships, even if those at risk are often not easily attainable. Doctor Cusini continues: «This difficulty with HPV lab tests has opened the doors to home kits (i.e. a do-it-yourself sample). These ship by post to specialist centres and have become more common in Italy since the pandemic. For an effective result, you need a network that monitors the correct usage of the test. It also needs to allow you to start a course of therapy if an HPV infection is present.”

Young people move mainly online. The information they have on the subject of sexuality is often partial, if not completely wrong. This portrait of young Italian people emerges from the preliminary STD male test results of the National fertility study project. The coordination of this project was complete, all thanks to the Istituto Superiore di Sanità. The STD Female Test project lasted between 2016 and 2018, collaborating with the Sapienza Universities of Rome, the Alma Mater of Bologna, and the International Evangelical Hospital of Genoa.

The survey was taken from over sixteen thousand secondary school children (16-17 years old) from all over Italy, revealing an approximate knowledge of the information useful to avoid infections and unwanted pregnancies. It also proposed several useful ideas to understand how to ensure that health protection messages reach the greatest number of adolescents.

Risks

Young people still know little about the risks related to STDs, syphilis, and HPV Urine tests. The spread and neglect of these STDs at a young age can compromise fertility. The same goes for the consultants. These are the local offices to turn to for information (anonymously) on contraception, STD Lab tests, early diagnosis of female cancers and voluntary termination of pregnancy, which are often unknown realities.

Almost one in three boys appear to have had full intercourse at 16 years of age. If it is true that the condom is the most used contraceptive method, one in ten males does not take any precautions. Meanwhile, over one in three resorts to coitus interruptus or counting the fertile days to have unprotected intercourse. Both are unsafe choices to avoid unwanted pregnancies and repeat STDs.

The responses gathered among adults show how far we still have to go to spread adequate knowledge about STD Home tests and sexuality among the population: over 21 thousand people aged between 18 and 49. Doctors belonging to the “Sistema Passi” network, with which the Istituto Superiore di Sanità collects information on public health among Italians, asked them.

Their answers show that there is no full awareness of the role played by age in female and male biological fertility.

Of the women interviewed, only 5% seemed aware of the reduction of fertility starting from 30. The record shows that this decline happens between the ages of 40 and 44 for more than one in four women. Even more worrying was the male population. Nine out of ten men thought the fertility decline occurred only after age 45. It is not surprising that the contribution made by adults to the education of young people is almost nil. Only in 10% of the interviews among the youngest did parents have a role in providing information on sexual development. This would include aspects of reproduction and STDs.

The situation regarding university students was slightly better with HPV Swab testing. Almost fourteen thousand had an interview, signing them up from eighteen universities spread across the national territory. From their answers, widespread knowledge emerged of the consequences of fertility and STDs due to the intake of alcohol and cigarettes. The data on beer, wine, and spirits abuse does not bode well. Reading the answers provided – even among adults and adolescents – a general overestimation of knowledge emerges. There is no confirmation when one asks about one’s habits or seeks more details in the answers.

Furthermore, considering the age difference, the poor approach with STD Panel test specialists regarding children is worrying. Almost 75% of female students have had a gynaecological examination. Meanwhile, only one boy in four has been to the andrologist.