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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Syphilis Cases Rise Sharply, Officials Say

During the last four years the number of registered syphilis cases has gone up by 15 times among adults and 20.6 times among children, a senior Health Ministry official said Thursday.

"The growing rate of venereal diseases in Russia during the last few years worries us immensely," said Lilia Tikhonova, the ministry's chief specialist on sexually transmitted diseases.

Tikhonova said 126,500 cases of syphilis were registered in Russia during the past year, while in 1990 only 7,900 such cases were recorded.

Tikhonova said the most alarming figures showed an acute increase of venereal disease among children. She said that during the last year a total of 761 children were found to be suffering from syphilis, a figure she described as "incredibly high," showing an almost threefold increase from 1993. Only 38 such cases were recorded in 1990.

"The complete perversion of our society's morals is one of the reasons for such a sad situation," Tikhonova said, adding that 65.5 percentof syphilis cases among children under 14 have been contracted through sexual contact.

She linked the rise with the rapid growth of prostitution, particularly among children, and the rising numbers of homeless people and refugees in many Russian cities.

A map in her office reflecting the spread of sexually transmitted diseases showed major industrial cities and ports as the areas most affected.

Tikhonova also blamed highly advertized medicines making spurious claims to cure any venereal disease in a matter of days.

Many people, she said, preferred to buy such miracle cures, which often did harm by suppressing the symptoms and thus complicating further professional treatment, rather than to subject themselves to a "humiliating" visit to a venereal specialist.

Under the old regime, the rate of venereal disease was controlled by strict government policies. Patients were forced to register all passport data and previous sexual contacts, while any further sexual contacts were strictly prohibited. Any patient breaking the rules or refusing to name his or her sexual partners faced up to five years in prison.

"We live in a democratic society now, and such measures are not acceptable," Tikhonova said. The current criminal code stipulates punishment only in cases of "deliberate infection of partners by a person at the contagious stage of venereal disease."