More and more young people getting STDs

By Le Phuong   December 16, 2022 | 12:57 am PT
More and more young people getting STDs
A bowl of condoms. Photo by Reuters
A rising number of young people are getting STDs in HCMC, causing worried students to make a trip to the hospital to check for the disease.

Minh Hieu, 19, went to the Ho Chi Minh City Hospital of Dermato Venereology because he suspected he had genital warts. While he was in university, he had a lover and they had anal sex. When tests revealed that he had genital warts and was infected with HIV, Hieu burst into tears.

Dr. Doan Van Loi Em at the hospital said cases like Hieu's are not uncommon. Since the beginning of this year, he said, the hospital has recorded around 1,900 cases of genital warts among students. The number in 2020 was 1,700 and fewer in 2021, when there were many months of Covid-19 lockdown.

"There are no official data and statistics for specific cases, but based on our observations, the number of males who have sex with males (MSM) coming to the hospital for diagnosis and treatment is rising," he said.

Besides genital warts, patients also come to the hospital to check for syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, HIV and other STDs. Since the beginning of this year, the number of patients with genital warts, gonorrhea and syphilis who have visited the hospital is around 35,300 cases. At the end of the year, the number of patients getting getting check ups is also on the rise, especially people testing for syphilis.

Em said anyone can contract STDs, but certain groups, such as young people, prostitutes and people engaging in MSM, are more vulnerable. Young people in particular often lack sufficient sex education and so have little knowledge about STDs and how to prevent them. This is a contributing factor behind the rising number of STD cases among the youth, Em said.

Thu Anh, 16, was diagnosed with syphilis when she went to the hospital to be checked for ulcers in her private parts. She has a history of sexual relations with multiple older lovers.

"I mainly look up information online," she said. "I didn't think I would be infected with an STD that easily."

Common causes of STD infections among males who have sex with males include not using condoms and sexual activities with multiple partners. As they are more likely to engage in oral and anal sex, they have a higher chance of getting STDs compared with those having just normal sex.

While most prostitutes use protective measures such as condoms while having sex, they often employ no protective measure when it comes to oral sex. Condoms also do not provide absolute protection against STDs, doctors say.

Em said most STDs are curable, but that some are unlikely to completely go away, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C or viral herpes infections. However, patients can still control their conditions and reduce the chance of infecting their partners through regular use of doctor-prescribed medications.

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