A group of NGOs has called for people to reduce physical contact and get tested after a rise in syphilis cases was reported by the genitourinary clinic at Mater Dei.

The statement, signed by ARC - Allied Rainbow Communities, Checkpoint Malta, LGBTI+ Gozo, MGRM and Preping Malta, appeals to people to focus on having a healthy sexual life and reiterated calls for a National Sexual Health Strategy. 

“We understand that the COVID-19 pandemic presents a challenging time for all members of our community. As we strive to connect with each other, we need to remain mindful of the importance of reducing physical contact in order to break the circuit and minimise the spread of COVID-19 and sexual transmitted infections (STIs). We urge any sexually active person to get tested and practise safer sex,” the NGOs said.

“We reiterate our call for a National Sexual Health Strategy based on scientific evidence and the needs of the population. NGOs remain at the disposal of the medical authorities to engage in discussions towards the best possible long-term strategy. We feel that in the current circumstances, routine is more important than rushed innovation.”

The warning comes after the GU clinic flagged a rise in STI cases following reports of weekly chemsex parties being organised, despite legal notices barring people of not more than four households meeting simultaneously. 

The clinic warned that such parties, where people were not wearing masks and under the influence of recreational drugs, are linked to an increased number of STI’s, including HIV. 

The number of syphilis diagnoses increased in 2020 despite a decrease in patients attending the GU clinic following COVID-19 restrictions, the clinic added. 

Where to find support 

• For testing, book an appointment at the GU Clinic by calling +356 2545 7491, Monday to Friday between 7am and 4pm.

• For prevention and to find other important information about STIs including HIV, visit www.hivmalta.com.

• For support on STIs or drug use, you can get in touch with the Rainbow Support Service (RSS) on +356 79430006 (inc. Whatsapp). RSS is a free service run by a team of social workers and counsellors specialising in LGBTIQ+ issues and drug use. RSS can also be reached on support@maltagayrights.org or via social media.

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