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Worrying increase in sexually-transmitted infections recorded

The head of the Genito-Urinary clinic at Mater Dei believes people have adopted a sexual behaviour that makes them vulnerable to STIs and the long-term dangers they carry

22 August 2016, 4:56pm
Valeska Padovese, head of the GU Clinic at Mater Dei, believes a casual approach to sex is making people vulnerable to STIs
Valeska Padovese, head of the GU Clinic at Mater Dei, believes a casual approach to sex is making people vulnerable to STIs
The number of sexually-transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV infection, diagnosed annually in Malta have more than doubled in recent years, according to Dr Valeska Padovese, head of the GU Clinic at Mater Dei.

Padovese said that it is clear that people have adopted a sexual behaviour that makes them vulnerable to STIs and the long-term dangers they carry with them.

“After big awareness campaigns in the 80s and 90s for HIV, the numbers of infected people got under control,” she said. “People were aware of the dangers, they were informed and comfortable about the use of preventive protection.”

And this also had a positive effect on the numbers of other STIs recorded. But when numbers started to drop, so did the public-awareness campaigns which soon became practically non-existent.

Padovese said that the use of protection and a more cautious attitude to sex at the time, the treatment of HIV and many other STIs also kept progressing.

“At the moment chances are very good that you will live a reasonably normal life with HIV, especially when diagnosed in an early stage; yet this creates some problematic behaviour,” she said.

“People have stopped using condoms and protection, even though they know their sexual behavior is risky. This not only increases cases of HIV infection but also of other STIs.”

Padovese said that the population was more at risk as some STIs were now becoming resistant to antibiotics and many were starting to develop asymptomatically, meaning that they displayed no apparent symptoms.

She said many people were visiting the GU clinic with late-stage STIs, simply because symptoms only became apparent after many months or even several years.

“When this happens, treatment becomes more difficult, the STI could have caused complications in the patient – including possible infertility – and the chances of having infected other partners in the process are high,” she said.

As to specific trends in Malta, Padovese expressed her concern at the increase in Chlamydia infections recorded, especially in people in their 20s, while gonorrhea and syphilis had increased dramatically in people over 30.

“HIV has been a growing danger,” she said. “While before we saw HIV mainly in African migrants, now we are also diagnosing HIV in EU citizens living in Malta and the local population.”

Padovese said social apps like Tinder and Grinder were also facilitating casual sex encounters.

“It is easy to see how an increase in available sexual encounters combined with a decrease in awareness of STIs and the dangers of them, can be a recipe for disaster,” she said.

She said it was difficult to get a complete and more defined picture of the overall local situation since most people that do visit the clinic were either well-informed and aware of the risks of contracting an STI, or had already developed symptoms for which they needed treatment.

“To make a real positive difference in getting the numbers down again, it is of vital importance to create awareness among those whose attitude towards STIs is more risky, and sadly this group of people is growing dangerously fast,” she said.

DealToday