Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason wants condoms to be distributed in primary schools in an effort to stop the spread of STIs, RÚV reports. Recent research has shown that there are more cases of syphilis in Iceland proportionally than anywhere else in Europe. Chlamydia is also relatively common in Iceland compared to other countries in the region.
According to a new report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Iceland has a rate of syphilis diagnosis of 15.4 of every 100,000 residents. Of all European countries, Iceland’s rate is proportionally the highest. If left untreated, the sexually transmitted infection can cause disorders of the heart, brain, and nervous system.
Syphylis, gonnorhoea rates rise
The number of syphilis diagnoses in Iceland has fluctuated significantly in recent years. While it dropped in 2011 and 2013, it showed a large increase in 2017 with 52 diagnoses. In 2018, 30 were diagnosed with the STI.
“Sex has become freer and people are not using condoms. That’s really the only explanation for this,” stated Þórólfur. “Other sexually transmitted diseases have increased in Iceland as well, such as gonorrhoea. And the frequency of chlamydia is high here, probably the highest in Europe.”
According to Þórólfur, chlamydia rates are highest in Iceland among those between 18-25. Syphilis, on the other hand, is more common among homosexual men, as is the case elsewhere abroad. “It is worth noting that the increase here [in syphilis diagnoses] has primarily been explained by the migration of people to Iceland, foreigners,” Þórólfur adds, “which has raised these numbers.”
Parents oppose condoms in primary schools
Þórólfur wants to see condoms distributed in primary schools as well as secondary schools to prevent the spread of STIs. “There are many who are opposed to that, many parents,” he says. “But we need to discuss this very well and we need to do everything we can to stop the spread of these diseases, which can be very serious. People can have chlamydia and have few symptoms or be asymptomatic. But the access here to diagnosis and treatment is very good. There has been much talk about bringing screening, research, and diagnosis out into society, to at-risk groups. There are debates about doing that, and that’s one part of trying to find as many people as possible in the early stages so they don’t infect others.”