Several parts of the world have seen a growth in the number of syphilis cases. For some areas, the infection has reached an all-time high and researchers are looking for the reason why the STI is making such a profound reappearance.
Worldwide Syphilis Infection Spread
In Europe, new syphilis cases reached an all-time high. Researchers from the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention found out that in the UK alone, the number of new infections nearly doubled in the period from 2007 to 2017.
The rate of infections in the UK was 11.8 cases per 100,000 people (in comparison to 5.8 cases per 100,000 people in 2007). Two countries, however, outperformed the UK in terms of the infection rate. In Iceland, the rate is the highest one in Europe – 15.4 cases per 100,000 people. Malta is a close second with 13.5 infections per 100,000 people.
Apart from these three countries, Ireland and Germany are also included among those that saw a nearly double increase in the number of syphilis cases since 2007.
The phenomenon isn’t isolated solely to Europe.
Canada is actually seeing a sharp increase in infections and a crisis situation as well as Thailand. Alberta declared the highest rate of new cases since the 1940s.
The province had 1,536 new syphilis cases in 2018. In comparison, the number of new infections was only 161 in 2014, which means that the increase has reached 187 per cent.
Medics believe that the lack of awareness about STDs is one of the driving factors. Many people believe that only those engaged in risky sexual behaviours are vulnerable. Research, however, suggests that all sexually active individuals are susceptible and should get regular STD screening.
The situation isn’t that much different in Asia. Thailand saw an increase in the number of syphilis infections in 2018 (a 36.9 per cent increase on an annual basis). The most troublesome aspect of the new infection wave is that it affects predominantly the youngest members of society – those in the 15 to 24 age group.
Apart from the lack of awareness, are there are social or cultural factors contributing to the rapid reappearance of an infection that the world had effectively dealt with just a decade ago?
Are Dating Apps to Blame?
In Singapore, there have been an average of 1,500 new syphilis infections per year. The infection is making its comeback and there are several crucial contributing factors to examine.
Social media communication and the rising prominence of mobile dating apps are considered two of the primarily factors for raising STD rates in Singapore.
Many of the mobile dating apps facilitate casual sex. They’re readily accessible and appealing to young people who aren’t interested in a relationship but just looking for some fun.
Young Singaporeans today are busier than ever before and many of them don’t have the time to meet in new people and to go through the motions of dating. Thus, apps have liberalised and changed the dating scene massively. The process is accelerated in the online realm because people who easily find others who have similar intentions and goals. Some of the offline dating steps can be eliminated, facilitating casual sex.
This isn’t just a Singaporean social trend.
Dating apps have been blamed for rising STD rates across the world over the past few years.
In 2018, Californian researchers attributed a 45 per cent increase in the number of new STD infections to dating apps. Internet allows for the creation of broader sexual networks, which facilitates the spread of infections from one person to another.
The California Department of Public Health released a similar study one year earlier, equating a cultural phenomenon with the growth in all of the primary STIs – chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhoea.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), dating apps are seriously contributing to the spread of STDs. This rapid spread is also leading to a much more serious issue – the evolution of super bacterial strains that are difficult, even impossible to treat with regular pharmaceuticals.
Drug resistance is a growing threat, especially when it comes to gonorrhoea. The number of drug-resistant strains is increasing at an accelerated pace and soon, first choice antibiotics will not yield the desired outcome.
WHO concludes that sex is becoming more accessible through digital technologies. This fact, combined with the lack of awareness about (or access to) STD testing, contributes to people spending a significant amount of time not knowing they have an STI and infecting other through irresponsible sexual practices.
Abstinence and the use of condoms during all kinds of sexual interactions are the two primary methods of protecting yourself from diseases like syphilis.
Getting regular STD tests is another essential. This is crucial for people who are sexually active and for those who are considering a sexual relationship with a new partner.
Syphilis is a treatable infection. Antibiotic administration prevents the spread of the infection and the effects it may have on one’s reproductive health. Syphilis is especially dangerous for women who plan to get pregnant and for those who already are. It contributes to premature births, miscarriages, foetal growth restrictions and even stillbirth.
Don’t postpone getting your test – it’s advisable to check your STI status every six months.
Contact Shim Clinic now or visit us during opening hours to get more information about syphilis, STD testing and the best treatment options.