"Bring your own condoms": Experts issue warning amid fear of STI epidemic in France
Health authorities are warning the general public to use protection and get tested after findings suggest chlamydia and gonorrhea cases in the country have tripled between 2012-16.
A Dutch campaign, to warn tourists about the growing epidemic of sexually transmitted infections across Europe, has gained serious support from sex experts in France.
Tourists from the Netherlands are advised to carry their own condoms in their luggage; in case, they are traveling to France for a holiday.
In the last four years, STI cases have tripled in the country, according to these experts. Gonorrhea and chlamydia are the two most common infections contracted by people in France, with ages between 15 to 24 being the most likely to contract an STI.
The numbers are alarming. According to statistics available with French health authorities, the latest figures showed that 2016, 267,097 people were infected with chlamydia.
Whereas, there were only 76,918 people who were affected in 2012.
As for gonorrhea infections, the number of diagnoses as per recorded were 15,067 in 2012 and 49,628 in 2016, meaning 91 per 100,000 inhabitants aged 15 and over, had the infection.
Even those these figures are alarming alone, Public Health France, believe that final numbers (unreported) could be much higher. As a lot of people don't usually get themselves checked for STIs and don't get physical symptoms of the disease.
"The very high number of chlamydia and gonococcal infections highlighted by this survey underlines the importance of using a condom and getting regular screening after unprotected sex," the health agency explained.
That is because, with an infection like Chlamydia, people can go for years without realizing that even have it. The infection can remain symptomless for a very long time but can also be life-threatening if left untreated.
According to the organization, the sharp rise in STI statistics is a result of improved screening tests and increased promiscuity without protection.
According to French media website, The Local, STI symptoms include unusual discharge from the vagina, penis or anus, pain when urinating, lumps or skin growths around the genitals or anus, rashes, unusual bleeding, itchiness, blisters and more.
STI's remain highly contagious even in such cases and can cause chronic pain to infertility while increasing the risk of contracting HIV. Public Health France advises public to get screen every time after having unprotected sex with a stranger.
Now, Public Health France is trying to get their countrymen to wear condoms when they have sex. In an attempt to encourage young French people to practice safe sex, the organization has started a new campaign called 'A Condom Could Save Your Life.'
They kicked off their campaign on their OnSexprime.fr website, which is a play on words using the French verb s’exprimer, to express oneself.
Nearly half the young population in France does not bother using a condom for sex, according to recent statistics.
Public Health France Spokeswoman Florence Lot said that youth in France "have multiple changing sexual partners and do not always use a condom." She continued: "This is why there are so many infections with youngsters under the age of 25."
Tourists are attracted to a number of hotspots in the summer, including Paris and the Provence region in the south. Coincidentally, these are also the places where the STI is an epidemic, and so several countries are advising traveling citizens to perform safe sex around these areas.
France’s Île-de-France region has the highest rate of chlamydia diagnoses.
The region's current rate of 1,481 cases per 100,000 inhabitants overshadows the 258 average of the rest of metropolitan France.
The Netherland's public health service GGD and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs are together warning tourists to carry their own protection and not trust French condoms, just to be sure.
A GGD spokesperson said: "In lots of countries condoms are difficult to obtain and not always reliable. Therefore, preferably take them from home. Do not keep them in sunlight. Holiday romances might seem romantic but are not without danger." He added, "The circumstances are different, but the risks remain the same."
On the other hand, thousands of delegates - researchers, campaigners, activists, and people living with the AIDS virus - will attend the 22nd International AIDS Conference amid warnings that "dangerous complacency" may cause an unstoppable resurgence.
In recent days, experts have alerted that new HIV infections, while down overall, have surged in some parts of the world as global attention has waned and funding has leveled off.
They even lamented saying that may be a bit too hard focus on virus-suppressing treatment might have diverted attention from basic prevention programmes such as condom distribution, with the result that the AIDS-causing virus is still spreading easily among vulnerable groups.
"The encouraging reductions in new HIV infections that occurred for about a decade has emboldened some to declare that we are within reach of ending AIDS," Peter Piot, virus researcher and founder of the UNAIDS agency, said last week.
However, "there is absolutely no evidence to support this conclusion," he insisted, and warned: "The language on ending AIDS has bred a dangerous complacency."
With inputs from AFP.