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Sexually transmitted infections are increasing in women

According to the Bloom Observatory report “STIs in women in Spain”in recent years there has been a rise in cases of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhea.

Although this growth has affected the entire population, it is women who have experienced a greater increase in diagnoses of sexually transmitted infections.

Thus, between 2016 and 2019 the cases of STIs in women in Spain increased by 156%, according to the estimates of the Carlos III Health Institute (ISCIII) mentioned by SEMES.

If the cases provided by the surveillance systems of the autonomous communities are taken into account, the increase in cases between 2012 and 2019 is 1,073%, reaching the peak of infections with 16,304 cases per year.

According to coordinator of the SEMES Women’s Group, Dr. Iria Miguéns: “80% of all diagnosed cases were in women between 15 and 35 years of age, as from this age fewer infections are recorded due to the stabilization of the number of sexual partners”.

“70% of the women – he adds – considered that their knowledge about STIs is poor.”

Sexually transmitted infections in pregnant women

It is estimated that in Spain between 20 and 25% of those infected by hiv they are women and that the virus can be transmitted from mother to child in 45% of cases, if the pregnant woman is not on treatment.

Other STIs such as syphilis primary or secondary, the probability of contagion is 70% to 100%. In the early latent phase the figure is reduced to 40% and in the late phase to 8%.

“Syphilis in pregnancy is very easy to detect and treat, so it is not justifiable that today girls and boys continue to be born with congenital syphilis,” says the doctor.

Regarding the hepatitis Bmother-to-child transmission can cause chronic infections in babies that can eventually lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer.

“As with other infections, there are alternatives that can prevent the transmission of hepatitis B from mother to child, so the use of rapid tests for the diagnosis of these STIs is recommended for both mothers and the couples to slow down the transmission”, says the doctor.

Risk practices

One of the risk practices that increases sexual infections is “chemsex”, which consists of the intentional use of drugs, mainly of the stimulating and dissociative type, to have sexual relations for a long period of time (which can last from several hours to several days).

When the use of some of these drugs is done intravenously, it is called “slamming”.

For Dr. Guillermo Burillo, coordinator of the SEMES Toxicology Groupalthough there is a wide variety of drugs used in the practice of “chemsex”, some are more common, such as gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHL/GBL), cocaine, mephedrone and methamphetamine, poppers (inhaled use of amyl nitrites , butyl or isobutyl), ketamine, and drugs used for erectile dysfunction.

“The combination of some of these drugs – he points out – produces disinhibition and sexual stimulation. In this context, it is common to practice unprotected sex with different sexual partners and the risk of contracting STIs, such as HIV, increases.”

According to the expert, around 30% of HIV positive patients practice “chemsex”, while “slamming” occurs in 16%.

“It is estimated that the practice of ‘chemsex’ can triple the risk of HIV infection and even double the risk of STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, and is associated with 80% of HIV seroconversions,” he notes. .

With the practice of “chemsex” there has been an increase in the consumption of drugs known as NPS (novel psychoactive substances) accessible via the internet and barely detectable in hospitals.

Substances that alone or in combination with other drugs have clinical consequences that are not yet well known but are of concern from an organic point of view.

According to SEMES, many of the cases related to drug use are treated in the emergency services.

In Spain, one study carried out at the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona which included HIV-infected patients who presented to the Emergency Department after using a drug of abuse, showed that the majority were men who have sex with men (55%) and that, within this collective, “chemsex” was present in 87.5% of the cases and polyconsumer occurred in 33%.

The pathogens of sexual diseases

There are more than 30 bacteria, viruses or parasites that are transmitted through sexual contact.

The 8 main pathogens that cause STIs are: Treponema pallidum (syphilis), Neisseria Gonorrhoeae or Gonococci (gonorrhea), Chlamydia trachomatis, Trichomonas vaginalis (trichomoniasis), Hepatitis b virus, herpes simplex virus, HIV and HIV.

These pathogens are predominantly spread sexually, including vaginal, oral, anal sex, or direct contact with skin or mucous membranes.

The coexistence of several infections

The doctor Juan González del Castillo, coordinator of the SEMES Emergency Infections Groupexplains that HIV infection and other STIs “are clearly interrelated, sharing risks, incidence and mechanisms of transmission”.

Some STIs, especially ulcerative ones, such as syphilis or genital herpes increase the risk of contracting or transmitting HIV infection.

The SEMES program, “Leave your mark”addresses this problem from hospital emergency services by carrying out selective screening of certain profiles of the population who consult for diseases with a high prevalence of HIV-

From January 1, 2020 to September 30, 2022, 116 emergency services have joined the project with more than 100,000 serologies and 757 new diagnoses.

How to prevent STIs

The increase in the number of couples, the implementation of new apps for sexual encounters, tourist areas and increased travel are the most prominent factors, especially in urban centers in our country.

“It is no longer necessary to only treat and diagnose STDs, but to carry out prevention and awareness campaigns, especially in those younger patients, before starting to have sexual relations. In addition to prevention strategies, commitment is needed to draw up state strategies that help the transmission of STDs and HIV”, pointed out Dr. Iria Miguéns.

SEEDS tips:

infections sexually transmitted women
SEMES infographic
infections sexually transmitted women
SEMES infographic
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