The numbers of all sexually transmitted diseases have increased in recent years. “The biggest concern at the moment is asymptomatic gonorrhea in young women,” says the expert.
Gonorrhea pharynx and condyloma.
When forty Alice returned to the relationship market after the divorce, he felt that he had “suddenly overcome all possible diseases”.
“Ashamed and embarrassed. Not so much the disease itself, but the fact that I, who should have known how to protect myself, had been so stupid as to have let this happen,” Liisa says about her tonsillitis and condyloma infection.
Liisa – like the one appearing later in the story Ville – does not speak in this story by his real name due to the sensitivity of the matter.
Alice is one of more than 80 people who answered Helsingin Sanomat’s survey about sexually transmitted diseases.
About 45 percent of the respondents were women, 40 were men. The rest either did not answer the question about gender or stated their gender as other.
The majority of respondents said they had chlamydia (36). The next most common were herpes (15), condyloma (14), gonorrhea (10), HIV (5) and other (6).
Chlamydia is the most common venereal disease in Finland, says the dermatology and venereal disease specialist Eija Hiltunen-Back From the venereal disease polyclinic of the Husin Skin and Allergy Hospital. He comments on the matter at a general level and does not comment on the cases of the interviewees appearing in the story.
Over 16,000 chlamydia cases were diagnosed in Finland last year. According to Hiltunen-Back, the number of cases of other sexually transmitted diseases is in the hundreds.
According to him, infections of all sexually transmitted diseases have increased in recent years.
Herpes and condyloma infections are not recorded in statistics, but according to Hiltunen-Back, they are very common. Nowadays, there is also a vaccine for condyloma.
According to Hiltunen-Back, the sharp increase in gonorrhea cases is striking. Last year, their number doubled from five hundred to one thousand.
“Gonorrhea has been found in young adults more than before. Gonorrhea is also more often asymptomatic, which means it can spread more easily,” says Hiltunen-Back.
“What worries me the most at the moment is asymptomatic gonorrhea in young women.”
According to him, untreated chlamydia and gonorrhea can be linked to infertility.
To the test According to Hiltunen-Back, you should always apply if you have had unprotected sexual contact and are worried about it.
“You shouldn’t wait for symptoms,” he says.
The Communicable Diseases Act also requires that if a person has been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease, they should report where the disease may have come from and whether they have passed it on.
Hiltunen-Back points out that if reporting feels awkward, the contact information of the persons can be given to the nursing staff, who will take care of the matter.
“Information is essential, otherwise nothing will come of preventing the spread.”
According to Hiltunen-Back, an effective way to prevent sexually transmitted diseases is to use condoms and oral sex protection. Condoms should also be used during anal sex. STDs can be avoided in a relationship where neither partner has an STD or other sexual partners.
Alice had married young. At the end of the union of more than twenty years, the spouse was caught cheating, after which it was decided to open the relationship.
At the beginning of 2020, the coronavirus pandemic had not yet reached Finland when Liisa and her spouse returned from a trip abroad, where the couple had visited a sex club.
Both fell ill with high fever and sore throat. Initially, both were diagnosed with angina, but when the symptoms did not disappear, the samples were examined again. Gonorrhea was found in Liisa’s throat. He was also found to have a condyloma, which he thinks he got from his previous affair.
“A disease is a disease. It’s not shame, but the fact that I didn’t know how to protect myself,” says Liisa.
The marriage ended in divorce, and Liisa returned to the relationship market.
“I noticed that the situation was completely new. When I started having sex in my early twenties, a condom was enough to prevent STDs. When gonorrhea was found in my pharynx, I realized that a condom must also be used during oral sex and possible anal sex.”
Alice states that there are many “reawakened” like him.
“There are people who have a lot of sex with different people. It feels like it’s even a trend among people my age.”
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According to Liisa, the trend can be a good thing if people know how to take care of themselves and each other.
“However, I wonder if these newly awakened people have enough information or desire to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases. How many use oral sex protection or know how to take into account that condyloma or herpes can be transmitted even when fingering from one mucous membrane to another?”
Liisa says that she is most frustrated with men in their forties, who seemed to be of the opinion that condoms are not needed already on the second sex date.
“I made it clear myself that a condom should be put on if you’re going to fuck inside.”
Liisa says that she had to wrestle with many kinds of ethical questions in the relationship market – not least with her own suitability.
In the end, he decided that this kind of life was not for him.
Nowadays, Liisa has sex with a regular partner. At the beginning of the relationship, both took a sexually transmitted disease test.
“We can have sex without protection. I have felt that I am sexually safer and enjoyed sex more,” he says.
In spring published according to the report Access to STD tests is not carried out at Finnish health centers in accordance with recommendations.
Liisa, on the other hand, did not experience a problem in getting to the tests. The majority of respondents to HS’s survey also said that they were able to get tests and treatment easily.
Liisa says that she called the health center and told them that she suspected a sexually transmitted disease. The Health Center made a direct referral to the laboratory.
According to Liisa, you should be careful when asking about symptoms.
“I have replied that there are no symptoms, but considering my partner’s situation, I want to check the matter. In addition to the urine test, I have asked for a blood test and suggested that the samples are also taken from the mucous membrane of the pharynx, vagina and rectum. If you don’t know how to demand these yourself, you’re easily referred to just a urine test,” he says.
Hiltunen-Back confirms that the problem at the moment seems to be that cases of the disease are often asymptomatic. If you have had, for example, unprotected oral sex or anal sex, this should be brought up in the interview.
“There is no ready formula for testing. Tests are ordered based on the patient’s story as needed, and the sample should be taken from the places where the disease may have caught on.”
According to Hiltunen-Back, it is generally easy to get into the tests.
Health stations have developed various electronic services, such as Omaolo, where you can fill out a survey. Often you don’t even have to visit the reception. You can get a shipment to the laboratory directly and you can go there to give samples.
In some cases, the sampling equipment can be ordered directly at home and the samples delivered to the laboratory by mail.
According to Hiltunen-Back, it is not very easy to get to the venereal disease clinic, because the demand is high.
One group of clients of the polyclinic are men who have sex with men, who have an increased risk of contracting HIV and who are therefore in preventive Prep treatment.
Treatment monitoring includes HIV and other STD tests every three months. Prep treatment, however, does not protect against other sexually transmitted diseases.
Its 21-year-old Ville, who lives in the capital region, has also experienced it.
He was sitting on the bus when the phone rang. A bad foreboding took hold of the mind.
“A strange number is not good, especially if you have recently had a sexually transmitted disease test,” says Ville.
He already guessed what the matter was, but thought let’s get this out of the way. The caller was a nurse who told that Ville has gonorrhea.
“It was a shock. There were no symptoms, and not the slightest idea what I was infected with.”
He had previously contracted chlamydia twice. Both times the disease had been asymptomatic.
Chlamydia infections were treated with antibiotics. Prescriptions came directly to the pharmacy, and the medicine was free.
“For gonorrhea, you had to go to the outpatient clinic, because the antibiotic was given both as a tablet and as an injection,” says Ville.
Willen the experience of testing and access to treatment are “absolutely good”.
“HIV is a big bad thing for gays. I want all possible protection,” he says.
That’s why he has been using the HIV prevention medication Prep since 2021 and goes for tests every three months.
Before the follow-up included in the Prep medication, Ville felt that the tests were not always comprehensive enough.
“When I used to apply for tests through school healthcare or the health center, I wasn’t tested for hepatitis, maybe not even syphilis, even if I thought it was necessary,” he says.
Ville has also actively searched for information about sexually transmitted diseases himself. According to him, the school’s health information classes mainly focused on heterosex.
“All matters related to homosexuality have to be searched on the Internet.”
Ville has always told his sexual partners about the infections he got as soon as he found out about them himself.
“I feel that it’s outrageous if you don’t tell yourself about it.”
However, not everyone does this.
“I have discussed the subject with a person who said that he was so ashamed of the STD that he would never be able to tell his partners about it,” says Ville.
He wonders at such an attitude.
Ville is not in a relationship, and one is not part of his plans, at least at the moment.
“If I were in a relationship, I would discuss the possibility of STDs openly even then. If the issue is not discussed, then just use the condom.”
Ville is also saddened by the fact that some are afraid to take tests, even if their sex life is very active.
He hopes that people would treat sexually transmitted diseases more openly and gently, so that the stigma associated with them would disappear.
“I think everyone should take the tests. The more natural the matter is approached, the lower the risk of disease spreading.”
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