In Sweden, the curve of the new case of syphilis, a disease which was almost extinct in the eighties, pointed sharply. Compared to 2010, more than twice as many cases, 476 sexually transmitted diseases were reported to the authorities in 2018.
Nearly nine out of ten cases were men and most of the infected men were in the age group between 25 and 45 years.
The development of Sweden clicked on larger European trends, said a new report from the European Union's infectious disease authority (ECDC). In Europe, the number of syphilis cases has increased by 70 percent between 2010 and 2017.
More unprotected sex is believed to be behind, said Andrew Amato, head of the ECDC prevention syphilis program, to the TT. Sweden is one of the countries where the increase is fastest.
This is very worrying. Condoms are not trendy anymore, he said.
In the EU, state authorities are now worried about how to stop a slow but steady increase.
In the US, for example, the trend is similar – but it's worse – because there are more women and children infected than here, "Amato said.
Both women and men can use syphilis without knowing whether it is and women can infect their unborn children with this disease, which can have very serious consequences for the child.
Both in Europe and in Sweden, groups of gay men are the largest part of new cases of syphilis. In Sweden in 2018, 345 of 476 cases where men were infected in sexual relations with other men. According to Andrew Amato, it is possible that the group was not careful about condoms because the risk of being infected with HIV has decreased significantly.
At the same time, he shows that one should not focus too much on a group of gay men.
We now see an increase among heterosexual men and women, he said.
Syphilis can be treated with antibiotics, but the problem is that awareness of the disease is low, both among lay people and among doctors – especially young people.
It's easy to miss, especially in women who get an infection in the vagina. If someone skips syphilis, it can become chronic, says Amato, who recommends that the authorities of infectious diseases invest in prevention and screening activities of people who are often less serious sexually transmitted diseases and who have many different sex partners.