Syphilis on the rise in the Czech Republic

According to a recent medical survey, the number of syphilis cases in the Czech Republic has quadrupled over the past ten years. The main reasons cited are increased tourism and the influx of foreign nationals into the country since the Velvet Revolution. Nick Carey reports:

The statistics released by the Health Information and Statistics Institute show that the number of cases of syphilis in what is now the Czech Republic have now reached more than seven hundred, compared to one hundred and sixty four in 1990. According to Doctor Frantisek Vanicek, this drastic increase has been caused by tourism, especially so-called sex tourism, and the increasing number of foreign nationals living in the country.

Changing sex habits, says Mr. Vanicek, are also to blame for the increase. Teenagers are now having sexual relations at around the age of fifteen, and with more partners, which dramatically increases the risk of catching syphilis. West Bohemia, one of the worst affected regions in the Czech Republic, has seen the number of syphilis sufferers more than triple in the past year alone.

According to many doctors, however, the figures provided by the Health Information and Statistics Institute are incomplete, and that the actual number of cases of syphilis in the Czech Republic is undoubtedly much higher. Medical experts say this is because there are a great many people who are afraid to seek medical help for their condition, and just as many, if not more, who are completely unaware that they are infected with the disease. There are also many prostitutes who are given antibiotics by their pimps, so that they also do not seek medical help.

The latest figures, however, are not all bad news. Unlike syphilis, the number of gonorrhoea cases in the Czech Republic have dropped significantly over the past ten years, from almost six thousand five hundred in 1990, to under a thousand in 1999. Small comfort to the syphilis sufferers, but good news nonetheless. Unless, of course, you're one of the thousand sufferers, that is.