Use a condom: warning as syphilis cases soar

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Durex has launched its global Unforgettable Nights campaign in Spain

PEOPLE are being urged to remember to use a condom during casual sex encounters following a surge in Syphilis cases across Europe. 

For the first time since the 2000s new cases of the STI (sexually transmitted infection) are more frequent than diagnoses of HIV in some countries. 

According to a report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) new cases of Syphilis have risen 70 per cent since 2010. 

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The increase has been driven by more unprotected sex and generally riskier sexual behaviour. More opportunity for casual sex may also be to blame. 

Last month the World Health Organisation revealed that about 1 million people a day catch a sexually transmitted disease, and earlier this month Durex chose Spain to launch a new global campaign warning of the dangers of STI’s. 

In the case of Syphilis, the biggest increase has been in the UK, Germany, Ireland, Iceland and Malta where diagnoses have more than doubled. On the other hand, they have halved in Estonia and Romania. 


Overall, more than 260 000 confirmed syphilis cases were reported from 30 EU/EEA countries between 2007 and 2017. While annual notifications decreased slightly between 2007 and 2010 (from almost 20,000 to a low of some 19 000 cases), they continuously rose to more than 33,000 cases in 2017. An all-time high since the start of ECDC surveillance recording. 

Andrew Amato-Gauci, an ECDC expert on sexually transmitted infections said: “There is a clear relationship between sexual risk behaviour and the risk of syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases. 

“The increases in syphilis infections that we see across Europe, as well as other countries around the world, are a result of several factors such as people having sex without condoms and multiple sexual partners combined with a reduced fear of acquiring HIV.” 


He added: “To reverse this trend, we need to encourage people to use condoms consistently with new and casual partners. Regular tests for syphilis and other sexually transmitted infections should also be part of the parcel, especially if there has been a risk of infection.” 

While the majority of cases (around 60 per cent) in some countries are amongst gay men, experts warn that heterosexual people with multiple partners are also at high risk. Indeed, other nations see gay men accounting for just 20 per cent of cases. 

The most significant aspect is sexual behaviour rather than orientation, and the practicing of safe sex. 

People should be careful to always use a condom. In tourism destinations like Spain, the danger of ‘holiday romances’ is that people are more relaxed and less likely to take as much care than at home. 

And the prevalence of ‘clubs’ which are attractive for some groups of men on stag parties or sports trips to Spain makes it even more important for men to take extra care. 

The use of prostitutes is a very high risk activity, where ‘clients’ should always take precautions and use condoms. 

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