In 2015, 153 000 new HIV cases were detected in Europe, the highest yearly increase (7 %) since the 1980s. In 2013, 385 000 cases of chlamydia and 52 995 cases of gonorrhea were reported in the EU. This chart shows the rate of Syphilis in 2015 in Europe. Relationships involving unsafe sex might be more common than we thought.
What sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are you exposed to?
You can get an STD through sexual intercourse, oral sex, anal sex or contact with bodily fluids such as sperm, saliva, blood, or vaginal discharge. Very few STDs can be transmitted through skin contact. The most common STDs are: chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, pubic lice, genital herpes, syphilis, genital and anal warts and HIV/AIDs
STDs can cause the following symptoms: pain with urinating or urinating small amounts only, irritability and itching of the vagina or penis, pain during sex, abnormal blood loss between menstruations or after sex, more vaginal discharge than usual, belly pain, fever, ulcers, warts, blisters on the vulva or vagina, anus,or mouth, or pain in the throat (after oral sex).
Even if you don’t have symptoms but are concerned that you could be infected, you should consult a doctor. Most of the recent transmissions are caused by people who were unaware that they have an infection.
HIV/AIDS: a current problem
At the end of 2015, the total number of people diagnosed with HIV in Europe increased to over 2 million according to the World Health Organisation. That year, 153 000 new HIV cases were detected. Alarmingly, around a third of affected people didn’t know that they are infected.
HIV/AIDS is transmitted through the exchange of body fluids. Within a few weeks of being infected, many people have flu-like symptoms. You can do an HIV test within a period of 6 weeks to 6 months of the last unprotected sexual encounter. There is no known cure for HIV/AIDS, although there is medical treatment which delays the onset of AIDS. The death rate in the EU for 2013 was 0.74 per 100.000 inhabitants, according to the last Eurostat release. The European Commission implements its policy on HIV/AIDS through the EU health programme .
How to prevent it?
Easy, use a condom. The male latex condom is the only contraceptive method considered highly effective in reducing the risk of STDs. Birth control pills and other contraceptive methods may protect you from unwanted pregnancies, but not against an STD infection.
Just go to the doctor!
If you are concerned that you could have an STD, ask your doctor to test a sample of your blood or make a bacterial culture, even if you don’t experience any symptoms.
If you are abroad, the European Health Insurance Card is a free card that gives you access to any state-provided healthcare that you need during a temporary stay in any of the 28 EU countries as well as in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. This will be provided under the same conditions and at the same cost (free in some countries) as for people who are insured in that country. Click here for information on applying for the European Health Insurance Card. Each country has a different social security system, so click here to view your rights in each Member State.
Besides the public health system, you can find organisations that also test for STDs (some for free, others charge a fee):
§ Germany: Berlin Aids Hilfe
§ United Kingdom: SH:24
§ Austria: Aids Hilfe Wien
§ Bulgaria: Anti-AIDS Coalition
§ Cyprus: Kyfa
§ Spain: Cruz Roja
§ Czech Republic: Rozkos bes Rizika
§ Luxembourg: Croix Rouge
§ Finland: Hiv Point
§ Greece: Checkpoint
§ Hungary: National Centre for Epidemiology
§ Ireland: HIV Ireland
§ Latvia: DIA+LOGS NGO
§ Netherlands: SOAIDS
§ Portugal: Grupo de Ativistas em Tratamentos
§ Slovakia: Public Health Authority of the Slovak Republic
§ Slovenia: SKUC - Magnus
§ Malta: Gay Malta.
Ending an unwanted pregnancy
If you want to end an unwanted pregnancy, abortion is legal in the early stage of a pregnancy in most EU Member States. You can consult with the public health system on your case. However, abortion is considered illegal in some countries like Ireland, Malta, Cyprus, Poland, Andorra, San Marino, Liechtenstein and the Vatican State..
In most EU countries, you can buy the ‘morning-after pill’ from pharmacies. However if this is unavailable in your country you can contact Women on Waves. You can find detailed information about the rules in each country on this map from the Pew Research Centre or this one from Women on Waves.
In the following links you will find contact details for family planning centres, that give you information about free contraception or abortion: Spain, Belgium, France, United Kingdom, Sweden, Portugal, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Ireland, Denmark, Austria or Germany. You can also check with the International Planned Parenthood Federation.