Human papillomavirus (HPV) was the most common sexually transmitted disease reported in the Maltese Islands in the last three years with almost 800 cases diagnosed last year.

Though the infection is usually harmless and goes away by itself, in some cases it can lead to complications or even cancer.

While both men and women can contract HPV, testing is only done on women. 

Data tabled in parliament on Tuesday by Health Minister Chris Fearne showed that in 2019 there were 798 cases, which was a significant decline from the previous year when the respective figure was 937. In 2017, 842 cases of HPV were reported.

This information was divulged in reply to a series of parliamentary questions by Opposition MP Claudette Buttigieg, who asked about the most common sexually transmitted diseases since 2015.

In the first two years of the period under review, the most common infection was chlamydia with 154 cases in 2015 and 270 cases in 2016. If left untreated it could make it difficult for a woman to get pregnant though this disease can infect also men.

No data on massage parlours

Buttigieg also asked how many of those affected had contracted the disease after visiting a massage parlour. However, the health minister said no such statistics were kept.

Last August, Times of Malta had reported that more than 500 men had been tested in the previous two years after having unprotected sex with Chinese and Eastern European women in these parlours. These figures were compiled by the genitourinary clinic at Mater Dei Hospital.

GU clinic patients on the rise

From a separate reply given to the Opposition MP on Tuesday, it transpired that, since 2015, the number of patients treated at this clinic has been on the rise. While five years ago these totalled 4,504, last year the figure stood at 7,469, with men outnumbering women significantly across the board.

Last September, the government launched public consultation on a proposed reform, which is supposed to safeguard sex workers from exploitation and criminal prosecution. However, the government has repeatedly denied it wanted to legalise brothels.

The reform has split NGOs and women’s rights organisations between those in favour and those who believe the model being considered by the government, which was adopted in Nordic countries, would fail.

Those against are warning that in spite of the good intentions, the reform would only result in an increase in demand and human trafficking.

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