The importance of breaking with taboos and stigma, as well as prevention

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The importance of breaking with taboos and stigma, as well as prevention

Scientists from IrsiCaixa go outdoors to remind young people how to prevent and diagnose rapid sexual transmitted infections


Ask yourself: how many sexual transmitted infections (STIs) do you know? It might be that only a few come to your mind, but actually there are many. And even worse, far from what we think their incidence is rising these days.

These infections are caused by agents such as viruses, bacteria and fungi. Many of these infections do not have clear symptoms at the beginning and can be transmitted without noticing. To highlight their incidence in our surrounding, we have put together the number of new diagnostics in Catalunya in the table. We can clearly see that we need to take action and prevent their transmission!

With this in mind, IrsiCaixa organised, in collaboration with the Living Lab Barcelona-La Caixa and the InSPIRES project, an outreach activity included in the Festa de la Ciència, which is yearly coordinated by the Ajuntament de Barcelona and took place on Saturday 26th October in Barcelona. Since the research of our institution targets the eradication of HIV/AIDS, we focused our message on this disease.

We made a playful simulation of how these infections spread in the population unexpectedly. Each participant was given a tube with clean and clear liquid representing the serological status of the participants. But one of the tubes was initially “infected” and had an agent capable of changing colour in the right conditions, like infectious agents do: bringing us disease in the adequate conditions. Then, participants made several exchanges of the liquid among others. By this, participants recreated the action of sexual contact without taking prevention measures. At the end of the activity, they asked for a "diagnostic" to know their status after "exchanging liquids/fluids" without protecting themselves. The change of colour in the tube revealed who was “infected” and thus, capable of transmitting the infectious agent. This dynamic made us realise how quickly infectious diseases may spread and how many participants became infected from only one individual carrying the infectious agent without any symptom.

The general aim and take home message of this activity was to talk about how an STD can be rapidly transmitted among the population and the importance of prevention and diagnostic. Also, the role-playing game allowed us to analyse the reactions of the participants when their diagnostic was positive, emphasising the need to not point at those who are infected and creating awareness about the stigma associated to STIs and infected individuals.

Finally, we solved questions and doubts, broke myths, and rejected taboos. We believe that participants went back home knowing a little bit more about STIs, how to prevent them, and more conscious about the stigma associated to them. As IrsiCaixa researchers, we want to provide tools to bring reflection so everybody, not only participants, can continue spreading their knowledge with a positive attitude.

If you have more questions, don’t hesitate to contact  us! As scientists, we are always happy to share our knowledge :)

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