Marie Claire UK - 10.2019

(Axel Boer) #1

Dating apps and a disregard for condoms have combined to send rates of STIs soaring.
Lisa Harvey explores a dangerous shift in attitudes towards sexual health

‘Itfelt like my stomach was going to fall out when
I was told I had chlamydia,’says Amelia*. After a ten-year
relationship, she’d been single for five months and was having
casual sex with four men. ‘I’d met two on Tinder, one through
a friend, and one at work. I was on the pill and we mostly used
condoms, but there were times when we didn’t,’ she says. Then,
the symptoms started. ‘My vagina felt different. I thought it
was thrush or a UTI but I also felt fluey, so I booked an STI test.’
Amelia got the results a week later, shortly after meeting
Rob. ‘Like the other guys I’d slept with, apart from one who’d
since ghosted me, I told Rob I had chlamydia and had taken
antibiotics but couldn’t have sex for a week,’ she explains. ‘He
said not to worry, that he’d had it eight times. Apart from the
initial “Shit, I’ve got an STI”, I wasn’t that regretful. I’m 29 and
saw it as a rite of passage; something most people go through.’
That might sound alarming, but in terms of numbers,
Amelia has a point: recent data from Public Health England
reveals someone aged 15-24 is diagnosed with chlamydia or
gonorrhoea every four minutes. Globally, the World Health
Organization says more than 1 million STIs are acquired
every day and in 2016, 127 million between 15 and 49
contracted chlamydia, 87 million got gonorrhea, 6.3 million
were diagnosed with syphilis, while 156 million were

infected with the parasitic disease trichomoniasis (aka, trich).
All four bacterial infections are currently curable but
according to Superdrug’s resident sex expert Alix Fox, this
is leading to ‘magic capsule cockiness’ among millennials.
‘Many have grown up with a “quick-fix” attitude to sexual
heath and believe if they get an STI, the issue can be
instantly sorted,’ says Fox. ‘It’s why people take their
chances with condomless sex, then rely on medicine to
treat the problem if they need to afterwards.’
Previously, sex education focused on condoms as a tool for
pregnancy prevention. This, along with the fact there weren’t
any major STI awareness campaigns nationwide between
2009 and 2017, has led to a generation either missing out on the
message, or using the pill and thinking all bases are covered.
‘There’s also this horribly prevalent myth that STIs are simply
something that only happens to other people,’ Fox adds.
However, many STIs are masters of disguise. ‘People
assume there’ll be discharge, a rash or another red flag
signalling a problem,’ says Fox. ‘But chlamydia, for instance,
doesn’t show obvious symptoms in 70 per cent of women, and
50 per cent of men who are infected. You can look and feel OK
for a long time while carrying an STI. But if they’re left to
fester, undetected infections can lead to major health issues.’




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