Men with sexually transmitted diseases are putting themselves at risk by buying treatments over the Internet, says a new study from the University of East Anglia (UEA), UK. The study noted that because of the stigma associated with sexually transmitted infections, men may prefer to hide their illness, and choose instead to try out Internet remedies in private.
But the researchers said that such remedies may prove hazardous if the sellers do not provide detailed advice on adverse effects, or on avoiding transmission and re-infection. If sexual partners are not treated at the same time, the treatment is bound to fail because the patient will be infected again and again.
The study examined a total of 77 treatments from 52 different companies on the Internet, including ebay. These remedies were aimed at conditions such as genital warts, herpes, gonorrhea, and Chlamydia. The average cost was around US$100, with the most expensive being offered at US$300. Worryingly, while almost half of the products were claimed to be effective, there was actually very little solid evidence from the vendors to back up this claim.
Additionally, less than a quarter of the products gave information on potential side-effects and they also failed to say if their products would interfere with any prescription medicines that patients might be on, or if there might be harm to patients who were breastfeeding or pregnant. Equally, less than a quarter of vendors provided advice on how to avoid transmission and becoming re-infected.
"It may be easy and convenient to buy your own treatment on the internet but we think that people are taking significant risks in doing so," said UEA's Dr Roberto Vivancos, the study author. "Treatment of sexually transmitted infections is not a simple one-off step of popping the pills or slapping on the creams. Some of these remedies will inevitably fail if sexual partners are not treated and if patients don't take steps to avoid re-infection."
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Source: University of East Anglia