LivingThe most common sexually transmitted infections in adolescents

The most common sexually transmitted infections in adolescents

Time and science have allowed us to now speak, with greater knowledge, of sexually transmitted infections, but did you know that before the 1970s it was called ” venereal disease ” because of its relationship with Venus, the goddess of love?

They later became known as Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs ). Which were defined as those diseases caused by specific infectious agents that are produced by sexual intercourse. However, today the correct term for them is sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

What is the difference between a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?

At present we can differentiate when a pathogen, a virus, a bacterium, a parasite or a fungus is contracted from what we call a sexually transmitted infection or STI.

On the contrary, we call sexually transmitted diseases when this pathogen produces a disease in our body. For this reason, we can contract an STI without developing the disease.

Science allows us to advance and better understand the agents that cause sexually transmitted diseases to the point of being able to make an adequate classification according to the infectious agent. 

Why are sexually transmitted infections in adolescents increasing?

According to the latest report from the National Center for Epidemiology , between 2016 and 2019 the incidence of gonococcus, chlamydia and syphilis has doubled in young people aged 15 to 19 in Spain.

We have to know the behavior of the youngest and for this, the Ministry of Health has prepared a qualitative study in 2019 whose objective is to analyze the attitudes, knowledge, practices and experiences of young Spanish people between the ages of 15 and 24 years in relation to their sexuality and sexual health.

One of the evidences of the study, positions sexual health understood by young profiles from a relatively limited perspective , so it is necessary to act in prevention campaigns and discourses beyond condoms.

The youngest express the need to address affective-sexual education from different perspectives and references such as:

  • Advance the starting age of sexual education in the compulsory school stage and provide continuity and regularity in issues related to prevention and genitality.
  • Workshops on sexuality and affectivity at a global level.
  • Bond of trust from the emotional field with the parents.

Due to the concern about the increase in sexually transmitted infections in Spain, the Spanish Society of Pediatric Infectious Diseases (SEIP ) has participated in the preparation of a document with different medical societies in which they collect a novel proposal in the integration of education in the clinical practice of health professionals.

They refer that adolescents are more vulnerable and easily influenced through social networks and this does not favor complete sexual education or having adequate references. For this, it is necessary that health professionals advise on sexual behaviors that are associated with a higher risk of contracting an STI, as well as educate them in prevention strategies.

Sex education is the best tool to prevent sexually transmitted infections

In 2020, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe stated “ that research carried out at the national and international level has shown the benefits of comprehensive sexuality education ”.

UNESCO has described the objectives of sexual education as “ teaching and learning about the cognitive, emotional, physical and social aspects of sexuality ”.

When we talk about comprehensive sexuality education , we are talking about much more than mere information about reproduction and the health risks associated with sexuality. We open the field to combat violence, abuse and discrimination . Promoting respect for diversity.

One of the key figures for the prevention of STIs are school nurses . According to the school nurse, Borja Mediero , ” we develop specific health programs according to the needs of the educational community, which encompass all the prevention of STIs, but we also focus on sexual education for the acquisition of healthy lifestyle habits and the full knowledge of sexual health. These programs are not only aimed at male and female students, we also work directly with mothers, fathers and legal guardians through parent schools

To conclude, we can identify that adolescents have more information through the democratization of information with the use of social networks. This hyperconnectivity does not encourage them to find reliable information or a reference in the field of sexual education.

Acting from school with recurrent and planned programs throughout their school stage is essential together with face-to-face workshops and the involvement of parents in the emotional field. They need a trusted person to be able to verbalize their concerns or doubts.


Bibliographic references

Cervera, JG, Campos, EFP, & Cano, JP Sexually transmitted diseases and adolescence: General information and prevention. In Spanish Society of Contraception. Working group on reproductive health in adolescence. Manual of reproductive health in adolescence. Basic and clinical aspects . INO Reproductions SA Zaragoza.

Ministry of Health 2021. Plan for the prevention and control of HIV infection and STIs. https://www.sanidad.gob.es/ciudadanos/enfLesiones/enfTransmisibles/sida/planNalSida/Plan_de_Prevencion_y_Control1.pdf

World Health Organization. 2018. International Technical Guidelines on Sexuality Education. https://www.who.int/en/publications/m/item/9789231002595

Parra Abaunza, N., & Montesdeoca, C. 2022. Education is the best tool to prevent sexually transmitted infections. The conversation .

Tarin-Vicente, EJ, Cudos, ES, Negre, GS, Romero, IF, Martin, JB, Martin-Gorgojo, A., … & Pinto, PH 2022. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) during the alarm state due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Spain. Dermo-Syphilographic Acts , 113 (2), 115-122.

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