Should Germany follow the lead on France’s free-condom policy?
According to the Surveillance Atlas of Infectious Diseases, STIs - particularly syphilis - are on the rise across Germany. Is it time for the German government to offer out free condoms à la France?
STIs on the rise across Europe and in Germany
Data from the Surveillance Atlas of Infectious Diseases, which reveals a rise in STIs across Europe and specifically syphilis in Germany, has moved back into the spotlight after the French government announced a new free-condom policy for people under 26.
In 2020 and 2021, reported STI cases in France rose by 30 percent - one of the main catalysts for the Macron-lead government’s new policy. In Germany, the past decade has seen a steady increase in reported cases of syphilis, with the European country’s syphilis statistics for 2021 being topped only by the United Kingdom.
Unlike in France and the United Kingdom, however, where syphilis is most prevalent among the 25 to 34-year-old age group, it is the over 45s who have been the most consistently diagnosed with syphilis since the infection’s considerable reemergence around 10 years ago. The trend is begging the question of whether the German government should follow its European neighbour's lead - or indeed extend the policy to all ages.
Contraception and STI testing in Germany
Currently, all contraception in Germany comes at a cost. Certain health centres may provide free condoms, and people under the age of 22 can be reimbursed by health insurance providers but when it comes to the contraceptive pill or IUD implants, but there is no federal-level policy which assures condoms are available free of charge. Unlike any other method of contraception, condoms prevent both pregnancy and the spread of STIs.
Interestingly, while syphilis is on the rise among the over-45s, teenagers in Germany are reporting using condoms during intercourse; in a 2020 representative survey, an overwhelming majority of 14 to 17-year-olds said they used condoms, an increase compared to a 2015 survey.
Despite sex education being introduced in East Germany in 1959 and West Germany in 1968, the German sex-ed curriculum, which is taught in biology classes, still does little to inform school students of the risks and consequences of STIs. According to the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, most sex education lessons do not mention chlamydia, one of the most common STIs.
Many STIs are symptomless but can have lasting effects, such as impotence and nervous system damage, if left untreated. In Germany, STI tests are available via doctors or gynaecologists. If you find out you have an STI you will likely be prescribed a course of antibiotics by your doctor.
Thumb image credit: de-nue-pic / Shutterstock.com
Leave a comment