COVID-19 confinement did not prevent risky sexual behaviour

According to a study by the UdL and the IRBLleida on urethritis treated in the ER

Cases of urethritis, often related to sexually transmitted infections  such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea, continued in the Lleida health region during the COVID-19 pandemic containment. This is revealed in a study by researchers from the University of Lleida (UdL) and the Institute of Biomedical Research of Lleida (IRBLleida), published in the journal Cureus, based on data from the emergency services of the Arnau de Vilanova University Hospital (HUAV) and the CUAP Prat de la Riba. The results suggest that the restrictions did not reduce risky sexual behaviour.

"No significant reduction in the number of urethritis cases was observed between 2019 and 2020, probably because people continued to engage in unsafe sex despite the social restrictions and the difficulties posed by confinement," explains Oriol Yuguero, professor at the Faculty of Medicine of the UdL, IRBLleida researcher and HUAV physician. "This is the first study of its kind carried out in Spain," he adds.

The research includes all patients over 16 years of age who attended the two main emergency departments of the health region - with a reference population of 300,000 inhabitants - between March and June 2019 and in the same period of 2020. They detected 79 people with urethritis, 94.9% of whom were men. The main symptoms were urethral discharge (59.5%) and dysuria (26.6%), i.e. difficulty or pain when urinating.

Although 63.2% of patients reported risky sex in 2019 and this percentage decreased to 43.9% in 2020, "this difference is not statistically significant", according to the authors of the article, because "no variation was observed either in the number of patients or in their gender or age". There were 37 in the 2019 sample and 38 in the following year. In addition, "urethritis caused by chlamydia increased significantly in 2020," Yuguero adds.

"During strict containment in our health region, we did not see a significant reduction in urethritis cases. People continued to engage in unsafe sex despite the restrictions," they state in their findings. "If, despite mobility restrictions and fear of transmission, especially in the first months of COVID, cases and risky relationships continued, we should look for new strategies to control and contain sexually transmitted diseases," they say.

Text: Press UdL

The researcher, Oriol Yuguero