Alert in Europe's bedrooms: the number of cases of sexually transmitted infections has exploded

An “alarming” wave of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) has been observed in Europe, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has warned, warning that the number of cases could be much higher.

Worrying wave of sexually transmitted infections in Europe – Photo Shutterstock

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has issued a call for increased prevention measures, after observing a worrying wave of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in Europe.

Specifically, in 2022, gonorrhea cases increased by 48%, syphilis cases by 34% and chlamydia cases by 16%. In addition, cases of lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV) and congenital syphilis (caused by mother-to-fetus transmission) have increased substantially.

The increase is both amazing and worrying. These figures, although important, probably represent only the tip of the iceberg, as the data could be underestimated“, Andrea Ammon, director of ECDC, said in a press conference.

This is due to differences in testing practices, but also access to sexual health services in the 27 countries covered by the European center.

Addressing the substantial increase in STI cases requires urgent attention and concerted efforts. Testing, treatment and prevention are at the heart of any long-term strategy. We must prioritize sexual health education, expand access to testing and treatment services, and combat the stigma associated with STIs. Education and awareness initiatives are vital in empowering individuals to make informed choices about their sexual health. Promoting consistent condom use and promoting open dialogue about STIs can help reduce transmission rates.”said the director of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, according to a statement.

Sexually transmitted diseases in Romania

In Romania, the most common infections of this kind are Chlamydia, Genital Herpes, Gonorrhea, HIV/AIDS, HPV, Syphilis, Trichomoniasis and Hepatitis B. According to the Analysis of communicable diseases under surveillance, published in 2023, in our country, in 2022 , a number of 503 cases of syphilis were registered, the incidence being 57.8% higher than in 2021. In most cases, it was about people who declared themselves heterosexual, the analysis shows, and most cases I am in the age group of 20-24 years.

Also in 2022, 22 cases of gonorrhea and 12 cases of Chlamydia were registered, INSP data also show. Young people were also more affected this time.

Doctors estimate that 13.7% of diagnosed cancers are associated with persistent HPV infection.

Let's protect ourselves from serious consequences

Experts also warn that although most STIs affect both men and women, the latter can develop more severe cases, and if the woman is pregnant, the life of the fetus can be put at risk.

“If infections caused by bacteria (gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia), fungi or parasites (trichomoniasis) can be treated, for those caused by viruses (human papillomavirus (HPV), genital herpes, HIV), there is no treatment that completely cures , but only drugs that keep the disease under control“, according to the Regina Maria website.

For its part, the World Health Organization points out that some sexually transmitted infections, such as herpes, gonorrhea and syphilis, can increase the risk of HIV infection, and HPV infection can cause cervical cancer and other types of cancer, and hepatitis B causes hundreds of thousands of deaths globally each year.

Therefore, the correct use of latex condoms is essential to reduce the number of cases of sexually transmitted infections.

Young people in Romania do not know the protective measures. Pieces of sex education are taught in Romania in biology (human anatomy, genetics) and management (notions of gender equality, traffic). But no compulsory school subject contains information about sexually transmitted infections or protection. This information can only be found in the curriculum of the optional Health Education, for which only approximately 5% of students in Romania opt annually“, explained for “Adevărul” Adriana Radu, president of the SEXUL vs BARZA Association.

Sexual education in schools, a necessity

Studies show that countries where students receive sex education in schools have a much lower percentage of underage mothers and a higher birth rate. In the EU, there are only seven states that do not offer compulsory sex education in educational institutions, according to the Social Monitor.

Practically, only in Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Italy is sex education not compulsory in schools. As a result, data from the National Institute of Statistics show that in 2022, 687 girls under the age of 15 became mothers, and every year between 15,000 and 17,000 teenage girls, who are between the ages of 15 and 19, give birth .

Sexual education, a field at the intersection of education and health promotion, has existed worldwide for over 70 years. In this sense, there are numerous studies that have focused on measuring the effects of sex education interventions. Thus, sexual education contributes to improving knowledge about sexually transmitted infections (level of information), behavior in sexual relations (level of use of contraceptive measures, such as condoms) and improving, say, the final results, i.e. the sexual health indicator “the number of sexually transmitted infections”, in this case this number is decreasing“, says Adriana Radu.

Sexually transmitted diseases

Sexually transmitted infections, also known as venereal diseases, are caused by various bacteria, parasites, fungi and viruses. Regular testing is very important because many people may have such an infection without knowing it.

The most common sexually transmitted infections are:

– Chlamydia

– Genital herpes

– Gonorrhea



– Syphilis

– Trichomoniasis

– Hepatitis B

Prevention of sexually transmitted infections (WHO)

Condoms offer one of the most effective methods of protection against STIs, including HIV. But they do not offer protection for STIs that cause extragenital ulcers (ie, syphilis or genital herpes), according to the WHO.

At the same time, safe and highly effective vaccines are available for two viral STIs: hepatitis B and HPV. Research to develop vaccines against genital herpes and HIV is advanced, with several vaccine candidates in early clinical development. There is increasing evidence to suggest that the meningitis vaccine (MenB) provides some cross-protection against gonorrhea.

Other biomedical interventions to prevent some STIs include voluntary medical male circumcision of adults, microbicides, and partner treatment.