Syphillis soaring across Europe

An outburst of syphillis is sweeping across Europe, and new HIV infections are also steadily rising. And yet, the public discourse seems to view sexually transmitted infections as a thing of the past. In this surprisingly light-hearted episode of Standard Time, medical doctors and a sex work activist talk screening, education, and stigma.

Sexually transmitted infections have been a defining feature of the entire history of human civilization. We have seen skeletons bearing syphilis marks, classical literature dedicated to gonorrhea, and loads of royal gossip about yeast infections.  STDs have been a subject of medical fascination and social conversation for thousands of years. 

However, Europeans are less keen on dealing with their present-day sexual health: the discourse makes it seem like all of these contagions are a thing of the past. It couldn’t be further from the truth.

Since the early 2000s, our collective attention on STDs has decreased, even though epidemics are on the rise. The World Health Organization and UNAIDS are beating the drums because the number of people living with HIV has increased from 26.6 million in 2000 to 39 million in 2022.

On a global scale, the WHO reports that more than 1 million STIs are acquired every day worldwide, with an estimated 374 million new infections each year involving one of four curable STIs: chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and trichomoniasis.

And even though treatment is available for a great number of them, it doesn’t make undiagnosed ailments any less dangerous – or contagious for that matter. 

Knowledge is the first line of defense. Most crucially, knowing one’s HIV status, with the available treatment options, it is possible to live a long and fulfilling life without infecting any partners – but for this, one has to be aware of being affected, and to be able to access the existing treatment.

In this episode of Standard Time we discuss sexually transmitted diseases, and the solutions to mitigate them: prevention, screening, treatments, and importantly, sexual education. We also delve into the role of community involvement, and the stigma affecting sex workers and LGBTQIA+ communities – both groups are at the forefront of finding solutions, even though the majority of society views them as scapegoats.

Dr. Danae Maragouthakis is a medical doctor and the co-founder of Yoxly, the company providing at-home STI testing. Danae’s social media channels have more than 1 million followers, making sexual health education engaging and accessible. Yoxly’s social media channels feature Dr. Danae Maraghoutakis on Instagram and TikTok.

Dr. Béla Tamási is a clinical dermatologist and the director of the National Center for STIs in Budapest. He is also the founder of an evidence-based dermatology and sexual health clinic in Budapest. This is Dr. Béla Tamási’s clinic website and medical advise blog.

Trajche Janushev is a Program Officer at SWAN – the Sex Worker’s Rights Advocacy Network. SWAN supports sex workers’ rights in  Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Their work underlines the importance of inclusivity and advocacy in addressing sexual health. You may find more information about SWAN here.

For this conversation, Standard Time enjoyed the hospitality of the Central European University at their Budapest library.

Further source:

Global burden and trends of sexually transmitted infections from 1990 to 2019: an observational trend study in The Lancet

The Global HIV and AIDS Epidemic

The Sex Workers’ Implementation Tool in its full volume and SWAN’s video digest of it: the Sex Work Implementation Tool (SWIT)


Creative team

Réka Kinga Papp  editor-in-chief, Eurozine
Merve Akyel  art director, Eurozine
Szilvia Pintér  producer
Margarita Lechner writer-editor
Zsófia Gabriella Papp executive producer


Hermann Riessner  managing director, Eurozine
Judit Csikós  project manager, Eurozine
Csilla Nagyné Kardos  office administration, Eurozine

Video Crew Budapest

Nóra Ruszkai sound engineering
Gergely Áron Pápai photography
László Halász photography


Nóra Ruszkai  lead video editor
Kateryna Kuzmenko dialogue editor


Victor Maria Lima animation
Cornelia Frischauf theme music

Hosted by The CEU Library in Budapest

This talk show is a Display Europe production: a content sharing platform soon to premiere.

Full disclosure

Anchor Réka Kinga Papp is a member of the Steering Committee for the Sex Workers’ Rights Advocacy Network since 2018.

This programme is co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union and the European Cultural Foundation.

Importantly, the views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors and speakers only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor the EACEA can be held responsible for them.

Published 30 November 2023
Original in English
First published by Eurozine

© Standard Time / Eurozine / Display Europe



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