Helping Czechs with sex
This year's Valentine's Day signified something more than just love and romance in the Czech Republic, for it was also the country's first Day of Sexual Health. This initiative is the work of the Society for Sexual Health, which was established in the Czech Republic at the beginning of this year by three medical specialists: the urologist (that is, someone who treats problems of the urinary tract and the urogenital system) Karel Koci, the andrologist (or someone who treats sperm problems) Vladimir Kubicek, and the psychiatrist Ondrej Trojan. I recently spoke to Mr Trojan about the society's aims and projects, and I began by asking him what motivated him and his colleagues to form the Society for Sexual Health.
"We simply feel that the information in society is not enough, not enough for men to find a way to overcome their shyness in looking for help. Research from all over the world shows that just ten to fifteen per cent of men look for help if they start sensing some problems in their sexual life. The figures are approximately the same regarding women. So we are not focussed only on the male population, but on the population as a whole. We want to express that everyone has the right to live his or her sexual life fully, and it is something that should not just be hidden inside their partnership, inside their relationship. And that we also have many options for successful treatment to offer these days."
And what would you say are the biggest problems in this area in the Czech Republic?
"I think that the biggest problem is the shyness of the population, the shyness of people who hardly find a way to their doctor. And the other problem is that many times the doctor does not initiate talk about it. And people expect their GP, for example, to ask at least marginally "How is your sex life?" because they are too shy to initiate it from their side. And these two problems create a situation which means that, as described, ten to fifteen per cent of people are looking for help, while the other eighty five per cent simply give up their sex life, for simply not knowing enough, or not having enough courage to see a doctor. And I may say that I often see foreigners living in Prague in my clinic, and they seem to me to be a little bit more open. It's more usual for them, more normal, to talk about sex life, about sexuality etc., than it is for Czechs. So if I have to compare it with awareness in other countries, such as Germany, France, England and the United States...Of course if we compare with the Muslim countries, it would be very, very different."
But it is quite interesting that you say that because a lot of statistics show that the Czechs are more tolerant of homosexuality, promiscuity, sex before marriage and so on. So how do you explain that difference, then?
"I think it's maybe different to show your permissiveness considering sexual behaviour and extramarital partnerships, and it's something else to go to your own doctor with your problem and say "Doctor, help me, my erection is not as it used to be." So, it's not so much interconnected. And people have a lot of information, but they don't behave according to it. We can see a very good example in AIDS prevention. Every youngster, every adolescent, knows that condoms are a good way of preventing the transmission of infection. But just twenty per cent of them use condoms in intercourse, independently of whether it is the first intercourse or consequently. So there is some gap between knowledge and behaviour. Perhaps one of our goals is also to overcome this gap, to bridge it, to give out enough information that treatment is possible, that it's available, that it's safe, and it's worthwhile trying to see a doctor and consulting with him or her about these problems."
And how popular are things such as Viagra in the Czech Republic, when compared to other countries in this region, and to West Europe and the United States?
"As far as I know from the sales figures of Pfizer, which is the producer of Viagra, it was an excellent success in the Czech Republic. I think we had one of the best markets here for Viagra among the former communist countries, and also better than some countries in the rest of Europe. I don't know exactly because it's not my field; I am not a marketing manager and perhaps you could ask Pfizer. But, as far as I know, the market here is very good. And if you compare the average income here with that in France it is much less, but the average price of Viagra is still the same. People have to spend relatively much more money for one pill than in other countries. So I think it was a big surprise."
What other projects does your group have planned for the Czech Republic?
"The basic and main project which took place recently is St. Valentine's Day, the Day of Sexual Health. And we are going to distribute a lot of printed materials in the waiting rooms of GPs and specialists, so that people have the opportunity to read something. As you perhaps know, influenza is coming now, so people are in waiting rooms, and they have at least the chance to know something more about sexual health. And we will go on with these activities. We want to make sexual health more openly discussed, and to stress much more than just erections, including the partnership and involvement of female partners - and also male partners when considering gays - in the process of improving the sexual health of people."
And that was Ondrej Trojan from the Society for Sexual Health. If you would like to find out more about the society, take a look at its website, www.sexzdravi.cz.