There has been a dramatic rise in the number of cases of syphilis – and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) – among young Barbadian men, raising concern among health officials here.
The Ministry of Health has revealed that the number of syphilis cases overall jumped nearly fivefold between 2010 and 2013, according to a release from the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS), with the numbers climbing staggeringly each year.
The BGIS quoted Senior Medical Officer of Health with responsibility for the STI programme Dr Anton Best as saying that the number of cases moved from 24 in 2011 to 41 in 2012, and 112 in 2013.
And although there was a drop to 100 new cases in 2014, “indicating that the dramatic increase in syphilis cases
seemed to have stabilized”, the rapid rise continues to raise alarm among health workers.
Nearly three-quarters of the cases (72 per cent) occurred in men, with three-quarters of those cases occurring in persons aged 15 to 49, Dr Best is quoted as saying.
No figures were given for 2015 and 2016, but a preliminary assessment reveals “the rate of new cases has stabilized after the rise seen between 2011 and 2013”, the release said.
Another STI that has the Ministry of Health worried is chlamydia, a common and normally non-fatal sexually transmitted disease (STD) that can easily be cured, but if left untreated, can make it difficult or virtually impossible for a woman to get pregnant, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also says chlamydia can also cause a potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy.
According to Dr Best, the most recent data from 2016 showed chlamydia has a prevalence rate of 13.6 per cent, nearly six times that of another STI of concern, gonorrhea, which has a prevalence rate of 2.7 per cent.
Troublingly, the majority of those infected (approximately 70 per cent) are between 15 and 29 years old.
“The trends of these two STIs have been at relatively high but stable rates for the past decade,” the BGIS release quoted Dr Best as saying.
The health professional advised that the only way to completely avoid STIs was to abstain from vaginal, anal or oral sex.
However, those who are sexually active are being advised they can reduce their chances of infection by being in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who had tested negative for STIs, and by using latex condoms correctly whenever they have sex.
Dr Best promised that the ministry would continue to conduct surveillance for STIs, and would also continue to implement health promotion and awareness strategies to prevent and control the spread of sexually transmitted diseases here.
He also revealed that the ministry recently developed treatment guidelines for syphilis for healthcare providers, and plans to offer training sessions in the diagnosis and management of STIs for doctors