Scientists studying swingers say that they have higher rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) than prostitutes.
Dutch researchers said that older swingers are particularly vulnerable and yet this group is largely ignored by healthcare services.
The scientists wrote in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections that there was a risk that swingers could act as an STI “transmission bridge to the entire population.”
“Although exact estimates are unavailable, the swingers’ population is probably large,” wrote Anne-Marie Niekamp, who worked on the study with colleagues from Maastricht University.
The researchers analyzed the numbers of patients seeking treatment in 2007 and 2008 at three sexual health clinics in South Limburg in the Netherlands.
The clinics have recorded whether a patient is a swinger since the start of 2007, in an attempt to track infection rates among this group. Estimates say that the swinger population could include many millions across the world.
Scientists studied just under 9,000 consultations at three clinics that took place. One in nine of the patients was a swinger, with an average age of 43.
They found that combined rates of Chlamydia and gonorrhea were just over 10 percent among straight people, 14 percent among gay men, just under 5 percent in female prostitution, and 10.4 percent among swingers. Female swingers had higher infections rates than male swingers.
One in 10 older swingers had Chlamydia and about one in 20 had gonorrhea.
Chlamydia is most commonly found in women and 70 percent of cases show no symptoms. The bacterial infection leads to pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infertility. Gonorrhea is another bacterial infection that can lead to infertility if left untreated.
Niekamp said that young straight people, gay men and prostitutes were relatively easy for healthcare service to identify and target for advice and help, but swingers were generally a hidden community.
“That makes them very hard to reach,” she said in a telephone interview with Reuters. “Because they are so hidden and in some ways also stigmatized, it is hard for them to come forward for STI testing and treatment.”
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