Sexually transmitted diseases on the rise

Sex is fun and healthy. But sometimes the intercourse follows the angry awakening. Then, when pathogens travel and look for a new host. However, they only succeed in unprotected traffic. The history of sexually transmitted diseases is probably as old as humanity. It was not always clear which way they were transmitted, and they were often interpreted as a just divine punishment for all-too-human vice.

Ignorance allows dissemination

To date, STDs are often not talked about, or even shamefaced, which is not surprising in a topic that has to do with both sexuality and illness or even death. But only ignorance allows STDs to remain a scourge of humanity.

In recent years, even in the industrialized nations, there has again been an increase in the incidence rates - and this is in spite of all awareness-raising and safe-sex campaigns in the aftermath of the HIV epidemics.

Of microbes and humans

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) refer to infections that are primarily transmitted through sexual contact and primarily affect the sexual organs. Since an infection does not necessarily lead to a clinical picture, the term sexually transmitted infection (STI) is also common.

In the past, only the following "classic sexually transmitted diseases" were counted:

  • Gonorrhea,
  • Syphilis (lues),
  • soft chancre (Ulcus molle)
  • venereal lymph node inflammation (Lymphogranuloma venereum

Today, one also includes:

  • viral infections such as genital herpes, warts and cytomegalovirus
  • bacterial inflammation, especially of the genitourinary tract (for example chlamydial infections)
  • mycoplasma
  • Calymmatobacterium granulomatis (Gardnerella vaginalis)
  • protozoan-mediated diseases (trichomoniasis), (giardiasis and amoebiosis [especially in homosexuals])
  • Fungal diseases (thrush)
  • parasitically transmitted diseases (scabies, pubic lice)
  • Hepatitis A and B
  • cytomegalovirus
  • mononucleosis
  • HIV / AIDS

The last three of these diseases are counted, even if they are not only transmitted through sexual intercourse and not primarily affect the genital organs.

Survive in a moist and warm environment

Although such viruses, bacteria, mites and other microbes sometimes cause very different symptoms, they have in common that they feel particularly comfortable in a warm and moist environment. Therefore, they settle down in the mucous membranes of genitals, mouth and rectum. Outside these haunts, on the other hand, they have no chance of surviving long.

So, if you want to travel, you have to wait for the opportunity to get in touch with other mucous membranes. Towels, toilet lids, underwear, doorknobs or bed linen, on the other hand, are their downfall after a short time.

Travel fever and hangover

One reason for the resurgence of the diseases is certainly the desire to travel of the population in Germany. Long-distance travel is in vogue - and associated with increased health risks. At the end of the last millennium, Germans made 44.5 million holiday trips, of which about 10 percent went to subtropical and tropical regions. In 2015, there were already 69.1 million vacation trips. But the number of job-related long-distance travel has also risen sharply.

The danger of bringing along more than just a brief diarrhea as a travel souvenir is unmistakable. Although it is estimated that only about 0.2 to 0.3 percent of long-distance travelers with a venereal disease or hepatitis B back, but that corresponds to 10, 000 people per year.

Sexual contacts abroad

Meaningful statistics about pleasure and frustration when traveling are naturally rare. According to a survey by the "study group for tourism", about 8.5 percent of travelers in the federal health report who made sexual contacts with people they met on the journey or in the holiday country. This would amount to approximately 2.2 million Germans per year!

In another survey of heterosexual men, 23 percent said they had never used condoms in such sexual contacts, and 20 percent had not used condoms regularly. Considering these numbers, the risk of infection with a venereal disease is not insignificant.

In particular older "sex tourists", who already travel with the intention of having sexual contacts, especially to younger native women, like to renounce this protection. For example, in acute hepatitis B, up to 50, 000 new infections per year are reported, which among other things are transmitted via sexual contact. This happens in about a quarter of the cases when traveling abroad.

Hard facts and dark numbers

Until 2001, doctors were required to report infections with gonorrhea, syphilis, Ulcus molle and Lymphogranuloma venerum anonymously, ie without passing on patient information. At present, a non-name report is only made via the laboratory, which is obligatory if HIV, syphilis and hepatitis pathogens are detected. This makes it more difficult to obtain reliable data on the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Doctors are now calling for gonorrhea to become a notifiable sexually transmitted disease and also chlamydia to be declared such, as these two diseases have a considerable number of new cases. According to estimates, in Germany alone in 2011, 80, 000 people had chlamydia and 10, 000 people had gonorrhea.

The number of new cases of notifiable sexually transmitted diseases has more than quadrupled since 2001, to just under 7, 000 in 2015. It is estimated that the dark figure, ie the number of unreported patients, is a multiple of the official number. In 2015, there were eight officially registered population per 100, 000 inhabitants with a notifiable sexually transmitted disease. The actual number will be much higher than the official figures. In the 1990s, the Robert Koch Institute estimated the number of untreated gonorrhea to be 85 percent.

Irresponsibility is a problem

Not infrequently, sufferers have had several infections at the same time or already one or more venereal diseases. Even taking into account the uncertainties inherent in such estimates, it is clear that not only in the third world are sexually transmitted diseases a serious problem.

The ongoing tabooing of the topic and the stigmatization of those affected make the spread difficult to stop. The threat of AIDS has lost its acute horror through more effective therapies. Thus, increasing carelessness in sexual intercourse with strangers and the renunciation of condoms contribute to the fact that venereal diseases are on the rise again.

Presumably, the pathogens are increasingly transmitted in unprotected oral sex - a practice whose risk is usually underestimated. In particular, in adolescents, education about causes and symptoms is often insufficient, which makes them - especially by their promiscuity - particularly susceptible to infection. And because of their ignorance or fear and shame, they can not be treated and carry the disease on. To make matters worse, inadequate medical care in some parts of the world also promotes the spread of new, more resistant pathogens.

In a nutshell

  • Dangerous: Sexually transmitted diseases are still important today and endanger health, especially if they are detected and treated too late.
  • Quiet: Venereal diseases can occur without symptoms and thus be spread unnoticed.
  • Multiple: Different venereal diseases can occur simultaneously.
  • Recurring: STDs can always get back.

The safest way to protect yourself from infection is to use condoms, preferably in combination with a sperm-killing ointment.

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