Divulgação, Notícias

Syphilis: ignorance, risk behavior and its consequences

Despite a fast treatment and free tests available at health centers, the number of cases are still increasing


Not using condoms associated to a risk behavior, which implies a turnover of partners, eases the transmission of the disease

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that, every day, at least a million new cases of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are diagnosed. Among them, one draws attention: syphilis, a disease that does not aim specific ages, gender or social class. It is estimated that every year, almost six million people are infected with syphilis. One of the factors that made this disease become one of those most affecting Brazilians nowadays is the disregard for condom use, related to a risk behavior, which implies in partner turnover, easing the diseases transmission.

There are signs that the younger population is not preventing themselves against STIs. A research performed by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), between April and September, 2015, with students from the 9th year of Fundamental Education in public and private schools, showed that 33% did not wear protection in their last sexual intercourse. In effect, one out of three youngsters is severely exposing themselves to syphilis when engaging in unprotected sex.

For infectious diseases physician Ralcyon Teixeira, supervisor at the Emilio Ribas Hospital E.R., there is some lack of knowledge about the disease, but on the other hand, syphilis is a secular disease that has victimized many artists and worldwide known celebrities throughout history, i.e., it is not a totally unknown disease. Most people, certainly, already heard of it and know it is sexually transmitted. However, it needs to be said that we are currently during an epidemic of the disease, which are its main symptoms, how severe it can become and how far it can be to babies, when transmitted during pregnancy. Syphilis can cause microcephaly in infants, and in adults, it can cause blindness and dementia, for example, he alerts.

Syphilis, like HIV and other STIs, is a severe disease, but absolutely preventable and it is curable, unlike the AIDS virus. This means the infection is indeed related to peoples behavior. Condoms are still the best say to prevent against all these diseases, however, statistics are rising, what shows the need for deeper awareness for people to understand the real risks they are exposing while engaging in unprotected sex, the physician alerts.

What to do to stop the disease?

According to the article, Brazil is currently under a syphilis epidemic. Cases between 2010 and 2015 raised to over 65 thousand. According to the Health Ministry, the high incidence is due to the growing notifications, and not necessarily to an increase in case numbers. This happens because notification of acquired syphilis became obligatory in 2010, while before that, states and cities were not obligated to notify, and thus, there was a gradual increase in case numbers.

In 2015, the total of cases of acquired syphilis in Brazil was 65,878. According to the 2016 Epidemiological Bulletin for Syphilis and actions by the STI Surveillance, Prevention and Control Department, the HIV/Aids and Viral Hepatitis (DIAHV) at the Health Ministry, in 2015, 55.6% of the acquired syphilis cases in Brazil were among people between 20 to 39 years-old. In the Federal District, for example, 1,288 cases were notified in 2016 alone.

One data drawed attention: genders have changed. In 2010, the incidence of the disease among men was larger, around 1.8 cases for each female case – but this average has dropped to 1.5 men/women in 2015.

For doctor Teixeira, the way to stop this disease is to aware the population. The governments have to launch campaigns. We, physicians and health professionals, have to talks and guide. The population has to become more interested in how to care for themselves. We must inform on how to prevent, early diagnostic and treatment, he stresses.

Director at the STI, HIV/AIDS and Viral Hepatitis Department, Adele Benzaken, stresses the Health Ministrys goal is to gather society in an effort against syphilis. For the first time ever we have gathered efforts between associations, society and class councils, states and cities governments and the civil society to build a Strategic Actions Agenda to Reduce Acquired Syphilis in Brazil. We brought feasible solutions and committed everybody in the fight against the disease, she said.

The Strategic Actions Agenda includes increase of testing, mobilization of managers and health professionals to offer acquired syphilis treatment during prenatal periods; strengthening of joint campaigns of federal, state and city agents, health professionals, community and other actors to prevent congenital syphilis; encouragement for pregnant women to join prenatal care, while involving their partners in the process; increasing diagnostic (by applying fast tests) and treatment for the pregnant women and their partners; encouraging the use of benzathine penicillin.

Questioned whether the breakdown of condom use campaigns and its wide distribution could be one of the factors why the disease arose, the Health Ministry argues there are no evidences supporting this idea, since for many years there were no campaigns (for condom use).…