Chairman of the Caribbean Cytometry and Analytical Society (CCAS) Professor Clive Landis has suggested that the re-emergence of syphilis in Barbados and the rest of the world may partly be influenced by the digital era.
He said although the sexually transmitted disease had been beaten “to within an inch of its life”, it has again reared its head in many countries across the world.
Earlier this year, local health authorities reported there was an outbreak of syphilis in the island.
“We don’t really know the full reasons for the re-emergence of syphilis. We strongly suspect that it has to do with social media patterns by which you meet persons, have sex with them. You might not know them in quite the same way as you would through a more, should we say, analogue interaction,” Landis told Barbados TODAY on the sidelines of the CCAS Expert Summit which wrapped up at the Almond Beach Resort yesterday evening.
Senior Medical Officer with responsibility for HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections Dr Anton Best said the disease was first detected in 2013 and the Ministry of Health had immediately put systems in place to improve syphilis surveillance here.
Pointing to a report which analyzed trends in new cases over a four-year period between 2011 and 2014, Best said there was a significant increase in the number of syphilis cases between 2011 and 2013. Subsequently, outbreaks stabilized in 2014 and 2015.
Landis, who is also the deputy principal of the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, stressed to Barbados TODAY that the only way to control the spread of syphilis is for people to know their status and get treated if infected.
“The importance really is not whether people are having sex, because people have sex and they will continue to have sex no matter what any public health person says. The important thing is that if you have a sexually transmitted disease, whether it is HIV, whether it is syphilis, that you have it treated . . . and you then won’t transmit it. So, actually, personal health and public health coalesce at the stage where you must know your status and receive treatment,” he said.
“I am less inclined to go into someone’s bedroom and try and tell them what to do with their personal life than I am to say . . . take responsibility for your personal health,” Landis added.