Physicians call for more screening of asymptomatic patients to reduce sexually transmitted infections

The sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have long been on the rise. In the last five years, they have grown by 84% in Spain., led by HIV, chlamydia and gonococcal infections, according to the consulting firm Cegedim Health Data Spain. Firstly, because the population live their sexuality more freely and with less fear than before. And, secondly, because they are now detected more than before. Even so, experts call for “strengthen prevention.” “And this doesn’t just happen by using the condombut that there is a need for testing, screening in asymptomatic persons. This is a very powerful first line of work,” says Jordi Baroja, director of the oenegé Youth Center for Sexuality Attention (CJAS), in Barcelona.

This idea is also insisted on by Dr. Jorge García, a physician specializing in HIV and STIs at the Drassanes unit, which is part of the Vall d’Hebron Hospital (Barcelona) and a reference in Catalonia. “A great tool for prevention is the STI screening. If the population were to be tested more frequently, we would prevent transmission and We would eliminate asymptomatic infections. For that we need the population to want to get these tests and, also, for the public health system to respond, Garcia points out, aware as he is that means are scarce.

That is why much of the STI screening is focused on. men who have sex with men. “When society has some limited resources, the most vulnerable groups are targeted. It has more effect to screen a certain population than another. But, obviously, [estos cribados] would have to be more within reach of all citizens. For this there have to be more centers and more resources.” notes this health care provider.

Informing sexual partners

Screening is not the only tool to prevent STIs. The contact study, as demonstrated initially in the covid-19 pandemic and now in the monkeypox epidemic, is a great control strategy. Garcia stresses the importance of a person newly diagnosed with an STI telling their sexual partners. But it’s not always easy. “It takes awareness and destigmatization campaigns. To this day it’s still very difficult to tell a person you’ve been with that you have gonorrhea. It can be a conflict. But the contact study is a very useful tool,” he says.

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Also important is the vaccination. In this regard, Catalonia will include, starting this school year, vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV) in male students. who are studying sixth gradeThe Conselleria de Salut announced last May that it was vaccinating 11 to 12 year-olds. In addition, Catalonia, like the rest of the autonomous communities, is preventively vaccinating against monkeypox for people considered to be in the priority groups: the men who have sex with men and are in pre-exposure prophylaxis programs. (Prep) and in prevention programs for people who already have HIV.

Prep, popularly known as the anti-AIDS pill, is funded by the Ministry of Health and is taken by men who have condomless sex with men before intercourse. It is another control tool. And, finally, as Garcia reminds us, it is important to “to live without fear.” “Because if you are afraid, you hide your head like an ostrich, and you don’t go to the healthcare system for help.” ditch.

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