More public resources to combat sexually transmitted infectionsWhile figures for some sexually transmitted infections (STI) such as HIV are evolving well and dropping, cases of gonorrhoea and syphilis went up in 2015 and 2016. The city’s Shared Strategy on Sexual and Reproductive Health has been operating since 2015 and was agreed with all healthcare operators. As a result, the City Council has boosted the corresponding budget by 42% to combat this trend and other phenomena.
“It’s very important to guarantee the right to health, but when we say health, we also mean the right to sexual and reproduction health. It’s important for sexuality to be free, but also to guarantee healthy sexuality”, noted the Commissioner for Health, Gemma Tarafa.
The city allocated a budget of 1,189,720 euros in this area last year, compared to the 837,126 euros allocated the previous year. The boost to the budget comes at a time when epidemiologic data show that while some STIs are dropping, as is the case with HIV, others remain stable, such as lymphogranuloma (LGV) and others such as gonorrhoea and syphilis are on the rise.
Unprotected sex is the main case of infection in our environment, although it should be noted that the rise in syphilis and gonorrhoea cases has two explanations: the fact that detection and early diagnosis has been extended to more healthcare services, and, the overall increase in large European cities.
Services and action
Prevention is the main area where action is needed to combat STIs, and it has been demonstrated that condoms are a key resource. It’s worth noting that 11.6% of young people between 15 and 34 use no form of contraception during sexual relations, and because of this two different activities are being carried out:
- The programme ‘Parlem-ne, no et tallis’ [let’s talk about it, don’t keep it in] is being run at schools in neighbourhoods which account for 43% of the city’s youth.
- In Barcelona as a whole, the Sirian programme is being run by the Barcelona Public Health Agency (ASPB) and is aimed at promoting the use of condoms among young people.
- In 2018, a permanent campaign is to be rolled out to distribute free condoms at leisure facilities and environments for young people, along with informative material.
As well as prevention, early detection and diagnosis are fundamental. One of the main points for tackling this health issue is knowing if the infection has been contracted, with fast and simple tests which can be conducted at health centres, hospitals, chemists or the network of organisations. The following programmes and actions stand out:
- The ASPB’s saunas programme has been running since 2006 and offers a quick STI and HIV test for men who have sex with other men going to these establishments.
- The prevention programme using mobile apps, aimed at users of casual sex apps. In 2017 the programme offered quick tests for nearly 4,000 people.
- Entities involved in the promotion of sexual and reproductive health also conduct 20,000 quick tests every year.
Overall STI strategy
The Shared Strategy on Sexual and Reproductive Health sets out priority areas for action in this sphere. The measure helps public services and entities plan their goals, complement each other better and facilitate health services which directly reach people at risk of infection.
The strategy articulates five areas of action: education, community and family life, communication, public health and integrated care. It also has three major goals: to prevent STIs, to prevent unwanted pregnancies and to prevent sexual violence. To achieve that, an asset map has been developed as a strategic tool offering information on common indicators relating to sexual and reproductive health.