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Chlamydia capital: Is Norway really the land of sexually transmitted diseases?

Robin-Ivan Capar
Robin-Ivan Capar - [email protected]
Chlamydia capital: Is Norway really the land of sexually transmitted diseases?
Is Norway really plagued by STDs to such an extent that it stands out in the Nordics and Europe? Or have things been blown out of proportion? Photo by We-Vibe Toys on Unsplash

Norway has developed quite a reputation as the land of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in recent years. But is that perception fair?

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After moving to Norway, you'll quickly find out that the country's reputation for high STD rates is a common topic of discussion.

Social media platforms are filled with debates and humorous takes on Norway's STD statistics, often highlighting the country's struggle with infections like chlamydia and gonorrhoea.

READ MORE: What you should know about dating in Norway

On the other hand, marketing campaigns have also taken notice of this reputation.

A relatively recent example involves 7-Eleven running a campaign which greeted visitors with the slogan, "Welcome to Norway! The Land of Chlamydia."

The campaign "jokingly" advised tourists to protect themselves against the locals by purchasing condoms, a message aligned with (what seem to be) recurring annual news headlines that report record-high STD cases.

But is Norway really plagued by STDs to such an extent that it stands out in the Nordics and Europe? Or have things been blown out of proportion?

The numbers

Norway's reputation isn't without basis, as recent statistics and developments suggest that STD rates in the country are indeed alarming.

However, the rise in STD cases is not unique to Norway; it reflects a broader trend observed across the Nordic countries, much of Europe, and the United States.

Over the past five years, the rates of gonorrhea have more than doubled in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland, according to NHWStat, the shared website for the Nordic Medico-Statistical Committee (NOMESCO) and the Nordic Social Statistical Committee (NOSOSCO).

Chlamydia remains the most prevalent STD in these regions.

In Norway alone, over 25,000 cases of genital chlamydia infections are diagnosed annually, primarily affecting sexually active individuals under the age of 25.

Reports indicate that the incidence rates of gonorrhoea, chlamydia, and syphilis have significantly increased, particularly among the youth.

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A hookup culture?

Cultural factors contribute to this health crisis. Norway is often described as having a hookup culture rather than a traditional dating scene.

This cultural backdrop, combined with what some describe as a tendency for inconsistent condom use or general dislike of condoms, has likely contributed to the spread of STDs.

The 20-29 age group is particularly affected, with young women, and men who have sex with men, being at the highest risk.

As Marit Voltersvik, an infection control supervisor in Bergen, told broadcaster TV 2, the situation is dire in both Oslo and Bergen, with health authorities struggling to control the infection rates.

To be fair, it should be noted that some recent surveys point to an improvement when it comes to condom attitudes among young people in Norway.

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'When people consume alcohol here, they just go wild'

An international citizen who came to Norway as a student in their 20s and ended up contracting chlamydia during their student years shared their experience with The Local (under the condition of anonymity).

They said that they didn't know Norway had a reputation for high rates of STDs at the time.

"Norway is a pretty small country, so one would think people would be a bit more careful here. And I mean local Norwegians, not foreigners. But apparently, the size (of the country) doesn't matter," they said.

READ MORE: How to have a fulfilling social life in Norway without breaking the bank

The Norwegian dating scene is quite laid back, and not a lot of thinking goes on about the potential risks related to STDs, our source said.

"At the time, I hooked up with fellow students from my school, co-workers from my part-time job, and Tinder, of course. Most of my one-night stands were local Norwegians, though. The girls want to have fun and don't think about the consequences. Neither do boys," they said.

"I think the main thing is that Norway has a lot of students. Everyone is studying something, and that creates a bit of a party environment, with good and bad things. Plus, when people consume alcohol here, they just go wild. Do things they would never do sober."

However, they acknowledged that the responsibility goes both ways.

"The night when I got chlamydia, the Norwegian partner I was with told me they might have had something. We just ran out of condoms, but it didn't matter at that time."

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And how did they feel about getting chlamydia and the process of treating it in Norway?

"Well, it wasn't pleasant. I got chlamydia from one partner and had to tell three other partners to go and get tested. That was pretty embarrassing…

"Testing and treatment were pretty okay, though. One has two options: go to a student place for STD treatment or a local hospital. I tried both. They ask you a few questions, and then you leave a urine sample and/or get a genital check. That's followed by some meds that you get," they said.

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