ECDC raises alarm over rising STI rates across Europe

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The findings reveal a troubling surge in cases of syphilis, gonorrhoea, and chlamydia, indicating a pressing need for heightened awareness of STI transmission, and the need to enhance robust prevention, access to testing, and effective treatment to address this public health challenge.

In 2022, the number of reported cases saw a significant increase compared to the previous year, with gonorrhoea cases rising by 48%, syphilis cases by 34%, and chlamydia cases by 16%. In addition, cases of lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV) and congenital syphilis (caused by transmission from mother to fetus) have also substantially increased.

These trends underscore the urgent need for immediate action to prevent further transmission and mitigate the impact of STIs on public health.

ECDC Director Andrea Ammon expressed deep concern over the rising STI rates, saying:

"Addressing the substantial increases in STI cases demands urgent attention and concerted efforts. Testing, treatment and prevention lie at the heart of any long-term strategy. We must prioritise sexual health education, expand access to testing and treatment services, and combat the stigma associated with STIs. Education and awareness initiatives are vital in empowering individuals to make informed choices about their sexual health. Promoting consistent condom use and fostering open dialogue about STIs can help reduce transmission rates."

In light of the rise in STI cases across Europe, individuals should take proactive steps to protect themselves and their partners. Testing for STIs, especially for those persons with new or multiple sexual partners, is essential for early detection and prompt treatment. Given that some of these infections can be asymptomatic and transmitted further without knowledge, it is important for sexual partners to get tested before having sex without a condom. If someone suspects they may have contracted an STI, they should immediately seek medical advice, as timely treatment is vital for preventing further transmission and potential complications of the disease.

While sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis, are treatable, they can still lead to serious health complications if left untreated. These include, amongst others, pelvic inflammatory disease or chronic pain. Additionally, chlamydia and gonorrhoea can lead to infertility while syphilis can cause neurological and cardiovascular issues. Untreated syphilis infection during pregnancy can lead to serious adverse outcomes in children.

ECDC emphasises the importance of proactive measures to address the rising STI rates and protect public health. One of the most effective ways to prevent STIs is by practising safe sex, including regular and correct condom use during sexual activity. Moreover, fostering open and honest communication about sexual health with partners can help reduce the risk of STI transmission and promote overall well-being.

Source:
Journal reference:

Nerlander, L., et al. (2024) Sharp increase in gonorrhoea notifications among young people, EU/EEA, July 2022 to June 2023. Euro Surveillance. doi.org/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2024.29.10.2400113.

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