AFP, published on Saturday 15 October 2022 at 05:53
They often go unnoticed but are potentially dangerous: some sexually transmitted infections continue to rise, especially among young people, pushing the government to expand access to post-Covid screening.
“We are going to pay the price for the Covid pandemic”: it has “delayed screenings” and thus favored “the circulation of strains and infections”, explains Professor Cécile Bébéar to AFP, head of the national reference center for bacterial sexually transmitted infections ( STIs) and head of department at Bordeaux University Hospital.
Chlamydia infections mainly affect young women. Those with gonococci mainly affect men – more so those who have homosexual relationships.
In France, the number of chlamydia infections increased by 29% between 2017 and 2019, the number of chlamydia infections increased by 21%, according to Public Health France. Even more significant increases for those under 30 (chlamydia +41% for women aged 15-24, +45% for men aged 15-29).
In 2020, the first year of the Covid pandemic, cases declined, primarily because testing declined.
“We don’t yet have the figures for 2021, but we don’t expect a decrease. At best, a stabilization,” states Cécile Bébéar.
Since the early 2000s, bacterial STIs have begun to rise again in Western countries, after a decline over the previous 20 years in the wake of the AIDS epidemic.
– Condoms –
“Since AIDS is less scary, because it can be treated – without curing it – and that Prep (preventive treatment) is effective and reimbursed, many young people no longer protect themselves during intercourse,” notes pr. Béatrice Berçot, head of service at the Saint-Louis hospital in Paris and director of a laboratory attached to the CNR for gonococcal bacterial STIs.
The result is that “the gonococcus has become very present again”, although it is “contained”, during the peak of the 1980s.
These STDs are sometimes manifested by genital lesions, but you can be a carrier of the bacteria without symptoms. And pass it on without knowing it.
“In the past, gonococcus was the + hot piss +, very painful. Urinary tract infections in people with gonococcus are, however, rarer, and the bacterium is now often found in the throat or anus, among many other bacteria. It does not cause pain. ” and goes unnoticed, notes Béatrice Berçot.
Why worry? Without treatment, these diseases sometimes have serious consequences. The most serious sequel is infertility, more often in women, but also in men.
In order to reduce the risk of complications and limit the spread in the population, doctors are calling for increased efforts.
“Used correctly and consistently, condoms are one of the most effective methods of protection against sexually transmitted diseases,” says the WHO.
“Condoms for men and women, teething babies (in case of oral sex),” lists Cécile Bébéar, who insists on “education in sexual health, from college.”
– Without a prescription –
Another bulwark: screening.
The doctor perceives “still taboos among some and a lot of ignorance”, but emphasizes the importance of “regular screening, to avoid more serious infections”.
In its prevention section, the 2023 Social Security budget plans to expand access to over-the-counter screening for STIs other than AIDS, for which it is already available. For those under 26, the refund will be in full.
In order to reach more people, Cécile Bébéar talks about a project for 2023, where you can request online and free of charge a screening kit for chlamydia and gonococcal infections to be returned to the health insurance.
Once detected, these STIs can be treated with antibiotics. For gonococcus, the response is limited to one molecule due to the growing resistance to antibiotics. In the question: “more resistant strains imported from Southeast Asia” via sex tourism, according to Béatrice Berçot.
It is also sometimes possible to take antibiotics preventively to reduce transmission during a sexual act. “Sailors or soldiers protected themselves against gonococci in the past,” notes the specialist.
And they hope for a vaccine within five years, according to Cécile Bébéar. “Several studies show that the meningococcal vaccine reduces the incidence of gonococcus by 30% in men who have sex with men. Therapeutic trials are underway in the United States, Australia, France”, she clarifies.