Sunday, 1 July 2012

Times: Unhealthy silence on sexual disease

Record number of syphilis cases was recorded last year

Philip Carabot. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Philip Carabot. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier
People who have a sexually transmitted infection need to learn to speak up and seek help instead of keeping silent and infecting others, according to GU clinic consultant Philip Carabot.
In Malta there is an ‘abysmal’ rate of people not using condoms...
Building on this, Health Minister Joseph Cassar said Maltese people still need to develop a sense of “civic responsibility” when dealing with sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Dr Carabot and Dr Cassar were speaking during the launch of the new GU clinic at Mater Dei Hospital yesterday.

The clinic, originally situated within Sir Paul Boffa cancer hospital in Floriana, will start operating at the state hospital from today.
Dr Carabot, who set up the clinic at Boffa in 2000, said STIs were on the increase. Last year saw a record number of syphilis cases, with 46 people diagnosed with the STI compared to 24 the previous year.
This was a global trend, mainly brought about by more people having unprotected sex with strangers, he said.
In Malta there was an “abysmal” rate of people not using condoms and a high rate of unprotected sex.
Many people infected with syphilis do not show any symptoms for years, yet remain at risk for late complications if they are not treated.
This means transmission may occur from people who are unaware of their infection.
Figures over a 10-year period – 2000 to 2010 – repeatedly showed complete disregard to any form of contraception, with an average of 75 per cent of clinic clients admitting they never used a condom.
Dr Carabot said he was glad the clinic moved to Mater Dei, where there were better facilities and two nurses were dedicated to the service. He said patients did not need a doctor’s referral to visit the clinic.
In fact, 80 per cent of patients who visited the clinic in previous years booked their own appointment and some 3,000 people turned up each year.
Dr Cassar said the clinic was in line with the government’s sexual health strategy, launched last November.
Apart from offering medical advice and cures to patients, the clinic will focus on information, education and prevention.
The strategy placed greater emphasis on parental responsibility in sexual education and called for research into sexual behaviour.
Research carried out in the build-up to the strategy showed only three per cent of 14 to 16-year-olds could correctly identify three sexually transmitted infections – HIV/AIDS, gonorrhoea and chlamydia – from a list of common diseases.
To book an appointment at the GU clinic, call 2122 7981.

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Sexually transmitted diseases on the increase - New GU Clinic opened

A new GU Clinic was formally opened at Mater Dei Hospital this afternoon, replacing the one at Boffa Hospital.
Health Minister Joseph Cassar said this was the first clinic to be transferred from Boffa to Mater Dei. Eventually all services at Boffa Hospital will be transferred.
He said the opening of the new clinic forms part of the government's strategy to enhance sexual health by not only offering cures, but by placing a strong emphasis on education and prevention.
Dr Philip Carabott, who was responsible for setting up the clinic at Boffa Hospital 12 years ago, welcomed the move to the new, bigger and more modern facility. He said sexually transmitted diseases were on the increase. Last year there was a record number of syphilis cases at 46. This, he said, was a trend seen worldwide. There was also an increase in chlamydia and HPV.
In Malta, he said there was a high rate of unprotected sex and an abyssal rate of people not using condoms. Malta also had a problem with young people binge drinking, which was a contributory fact.
Dr Carabott noted that patients did not need a referral to go to the GU clinic. 80% usually just call to fix an appointment themselves.
Unfortunately, he said, Malta still had a situation where most of those who had sexually transmitted diseases did not feel a responsibility to speak up, and diseases spread.

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