We spoke to Peter Weisenseel, MD, a specialist in dermatology and venereal diseases who works at ‘Dermatologikum’ Hamburg.
He is also an author who writes in German and published his first book ‘Syphilis & Co.’ in 2018. At the moment, he is working on his second book.
In your experience, how did lockdowns and social restrictions affect the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases?
Overall, the incidence of sexually transmitted infections (STI) in Germany has only shown a slight decrease in 2020. This implies that people remained sexually active and did not stick to one partner only. The sexual encounters moved from obvious clubs and establishments into private areas. Internet and dating apps easily replaced chatting in bars or clubs.
In our office, we had more appointments for preventive STI testings in 2020 compared to the year before. The reason for this may be that people are more sensitized about health topics in general by the pandemic and do care more about themselves and their partners.
What do you expect concerning sexually transmitted diseases once the restrictions will be relaxed and people will be able to go out and date again?
This is hard to predict. In recent months, people have rather met for a walk with a coffee to go at the first date instead of dancing closely after a couple of drinks. Some people will stay careful even if nightlife and dating will return to the pre-Covid-19 status, but I can figure that there will be a certain peak of STIs in the summer/autumn of 2021. Normalization of international travelling will also increase the rate of STIs again.
What was the most surprising professional as well as private insight/experience related to the pandemic?
Professional: Lucky me, my daily work in the office was only slightly affected by the pandemic. Time-consuming travels to national and international conferences are replaced by video conferences. Not bad, right? The most surprising aspect for me: Procedures such as botox, fillers or aesthetic surgeries are booming since the start of the pandemic. People love to spend time and money on these procedures as they cannot go on holidays. Additionally, small bruises or marks after the procedure are hardly noticed when you work from home and wear face masks in public.
Private: As the German television program is quite numbing and boring after a few evenings at home, I used the additional spare time to write a book. It is a coming-of-age novel about a boy in the 1980s which will hopefully be available by the summer. And, to cut off the next question: Sexually transmitted diseases do not play an essential part in the book.
Dr Weisenseel, we thank you for your insights!