41 per cent increase in reported STDs in Abu Dhabi

A Haad spokeswoman said the increase in numbers is because of an increasing population as well as increased training of physicians on the importance of reporting infectious diseases.

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ABU DHABI // More than 500 incidences of sexually transmitted disease were reported in the capital last year, but a medical professional said the actual number of cases was probably higher.

There were 546 cases of STDs reported to Health Authority Abu Dhabi, a 41 per cent increase on the 386 cases in 2013.

A Haad spokeswoman attributed the increase o a growing population, but also to the increased training of physicians in reporting infectious diseases.

The diseases are found through the visa screening programme, premarital screening programmes and occupational health screening programmes. Doctors are required to report some STDs by law.

Dr Suzanne Salihi, a gynaecology and obstetrics specialist and founder of the White House Clinic in Dubai, said there were many factors to consider when studying the figures.

“First of all there is generally an ever-increasing, better health service and ... an ease of access to clinicians, such as your gynaecologist,” she said.

“So one factor may be a rise in reporting and recording of incidences of sexually transmitted infections.”

Many STDs, she said, showed no symptoms for periods of time and could be transmitted to patients without displaying any symptoms. The key to successfully fighting the increase in incidences of STDs was in education.

“Patients should be aware of the need to test themselves and their partners before entering into a new relationship,” Dr Salhi said. “Men and women can be tested by a gynaecologist.

“If a patient has been diagnosed with an STD, such as chlamydia, genital warts or genital herpes, it is important for them to be aware of the general screening for all STDs because if they have one then there is an increased likelihood of the incidence of other STDs that are as yet asymptomatic.”

Once Haad receives a notification, a communicable disease officer reviews the patient’s data and starts an epidemiological investigation, the spokeswoman said.

The investigation then identifies the contacts at risk, looks for sources of infection and suspected mode of transmission, arranges screening for the patient and provides treatment and health education.

Dr Fady Hachem, an obstetrics and gynaecology consultant at Burjeel Hospital, said the figures were unlikely to be a true representation of the prevalence of STDs in the emirate.

“I feel we have more cases,” he said. “Not all the cases are declared.”

Currently, not all hospital or medical practices have a system to notify the health authority about STDs. In some incidences, Dr Hachem said, patients ask for the lab results not to be reported. “They fear to be positive for these diseases.”

The numbers were also not a true reflection of the prevalence of STDs in the country because many infectious diseases, such as chlamydia and HPV, were not required to be reported, he said.