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STD prevalence is increasing sharply among young people

Condoms are distributed among tourists at a Spanish resort.
Condoms are distributed among tourists at a Spanish resort. / SUR
  • A reduction in condom use, teenagers copying what they see in porn videos and myths about sex are leading to more venereal infections

Sex is surrounded by myths and misinformation, and the combination of these two factors is directly linked to the significant increase in sexually transmitted diseases (STD) in the past five years. This is especially the case among young people, who are not aware that intercourse without protection is like playing Russian roulette with venereal infections.

The Spanish Ministry of Health is concerned at the increase and the numbers of people affected by an STD. For example, the incidence of gonorrhea has multiplied by ten in the past 15 years, to a total of 8,722 registered cases. According to the Red Nacional de Vigilancia Epidemiológica, which monitors such cases, the largest increase has been in the 20 to 24 age range, and there have also been more cases in 15 to 19-year-olds. The Andalusian government's Health Ministry has also confirmed an increase in venereal illnesses in Malaga, but has not specified the percentages.

The Ministry of Health has now started a new campaign with a slogan which warns people that the key to preventing STDs is in their own hands.

Experts say that many teenagers copy what they see in the porn videos they watch on their mobile phones and tablets, and in those films it is rare for a condom to be used.

This imitative behaviour, and a lack of sex education, brings with it some dangerous consequences and means that STDs are on the increase, warn specialists in sexology and venereology.

Most young people don't realise the risk that genital herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis or chlamydia pose to their health, and it is these STDs which have increased "significantly" in Malaga, according to the provincial health authorities.

These infections represent a serious public health problem because of their complications and side effects, unless the illness is diagnosed early and the right treatment is given to eliminate it.

One cause of the increase is that the majority of adolescents believe the misinformation and myths regarding sexuality. At the same time, there has also been a relaxation in other sectors of the population about using condoms. Many young people argue that using them "breaks the romance of the moment" or "reduces pleasure".

The vice-president of the Andalusian Contraception Society, María Jesús Alonso, says that "pornography is causing a lot of damage" among young people and is also leading them to change their sexual practices. In some cases they use violence during sex or force non-consensual intercourse; in others, they feel unhappy if they can't do what they see in the porno videos.

Dr Alonso says genital herpes is the sexual infection which most commonly affects the juvenile population, and parents and teachers are not sufficiently aware of the dangers of infections of sexual origin. The latest contraception survey published in Spain showed that use of condoms had dropped from 50 to 30 per cent, and hormonal methods had increased to prevent pregnancy.

Another factor to explain the increase of these infections is that the hospitals now have techniques to diagnose them, whereas five years ago that was not so. "So we don't really know if there are more infections than before or whether it's just that more are being diagnosed now," says Dr Alonso.

She believes that in Malaga province there is an underdiagnosis of these illnesses, in other words the real number is higher than the official figure.

According to the Junta de Andalucía's Health Ministry, in Malaga there are 10.92 diagnoses per 100,000 inhabitants, although they recognise that this number will go up when the new policy is put into effect to speed up the normal delays in diagnosing sexually transmitted diseases.