Everything You Need To Know About the STI Spike in Gauteng

by | Feb 15, 2024 | Health

According to a statement released by the Gauteng Department of Health (GDoH), the province is currently facing a significant spike of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), prompting urgent action from health authorities. Between April and December 2023, over 167,000 males sought treatment at public health facilities in Gauteng. Shockingly, 40% of them were treated for Male Urethritis Syndrome (MUS), a clear indicator of newly acquired STIs.

What Are the Symptoms of MUS?

Symptoms such as penile discharge and burning urination should not be ignored, as they can lead to severe complications if left untreated. Gonorrhea and chlamydia are identified as the primary causes of MUS in South Africa. The incidence of MUS has been on the rise, particularly in areas like Johannesburg, Merafong, Ekurhuleni South, Lesedi, and Tshwane. These regions, with their diverse populations, including students, sex workers, miners, and individuals living in informal settlements, are particularly vulnerable.

READ MORE: The 4 STDs You Could Actually Have Right Now Without Even Knowing It

Looking at the recent news from the Gauteng Department of Health, we reached out to Dr. Siyamak Saleh, also known as Doctor Siya, a medical doctor and a multi-award-winning content creator with a mission to simplify and demystify sexual and reproductive health.

Dr. Siya: The recent spike in MUS cases is a significant health concern. It suggests a parallel increase in sexually transmitted infections, given that MUS is often caused by gonorrhoea and chlamydia. This uptick is particularly concerning because MUS can frequently be asymptomatic, meaning individuals may unknowingly contribute to the transmission cycle of STIs. The trend reflects a need for heightened sexual health awareness, preventive measures like consistent and correct condom use, and the importance of regular STI screenings to intercept and manage these infections effectively.

Given the noted rise in MUS cases, what specific strategies or interventions are being employed by the Gauteng Department of Health to address this issue, especially in high-risk populations such as those in tertiary institutions and mining areas?

To combat the rise in MUS cases, the Gauteng Department of Health is implementing strategies that include promoting the use of male and female condoms, which are freely available at healthcare facilities, and enhancing STI screening and treatment services. These are complemented by educational campaigns that address the reduction of sexual partners and advocate for delayed sexual initiation.

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Could you elaborate on the implications of untreated MUS, including potential complications and its role in facilitating HIV transmission? How does early detection and treatment of MUS contribute to broader public health goals, particularly in reducing HIV infections?

Untreated MUS can escalate to severe complications leading to chronic pain and infertility. Beyond these direct health consequences, MUS can increase the risk of HIV transmission. The inflammation associated with STIs creates an environment that can facilitate the entry and spread of HIV. Thus, managing MUS is not just about treating an STI but also about broader HIV prevention. If you notice symptoms like burning during urination or an unusual discharge, it’s important to consult a healthcare provider without delay as prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment are essential to prevent these serious health outcomes.

The press release mentions a notable disparity in the initiation of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) between females and males. What are the primary reasons for this difference, and what measures are being taken to encourage more males to initiate PrEP and engage in protective sexual practices?

The discrepancy in PrEP uptake between females and males may be attributed to several factors, including differing levels of awareness, perceived low risk of HIV transmission, and possibly cultural or societal attitudes towards seeking preventive healthcare. The Department of Health is addressing this by increasing efforts to raise awareness about PrEP among men, emphasising its role in HIV prevention, and simultaneously promoting correct condom use to protect against all forms of STIs and unplanned pregnancies.

In light of Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Month and STI/Condom Week, could you outline specific initiatives or campaigns aimed at promoting safer sexual behaviours and increasing access to STI prevention and treatment services, particularly during this period?

During Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Month and STI/Condom Week, the Department of Health amplifies efforts to promote safer sexual behaviours. This includes the distribution of educational materials that encourage regular STI testing, the correct and consistent use of condoms, and the benefits of timely treatment. Public health campaigns are launched to increase community engagement, focusing on the dissemination of information through various media and community events. These initiatives aim to foster an environment where safe sex practices are normalised and openly discussed, improving the overall sexual health of the population.

Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness

February is Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Month, providing an opportune moment to raise awareness about the importance of safe sexual practices and proactive healthcare. STI/Condom Week (6-10 February) and Pregnancy Awareness Week coincides with this, further emphasising the need for comprehensive sexual health education and access to services.

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The STI spike in Gauteng is a pressing concern that demands immediate attention. Every individual, regardless of gender, must prioritise their sexual health by practising safe sex, seeking regular testing, and accessing available preventive measures and treatments. Together, we can combat the spread of STIs and safeguard the well-being of our communities. For help, visit your nearest healthcare facility for assistance.

Meet Dr. Siyamak Saleh

Dr. Siyamak Saleh, also known as Doctor Siya, is a medical doctor and a multi-award winning content creator with a mission to simplify and demystify sexual and reproductive health. With a global following of more than 3.5m followers across his social media platforms, he has been recognised for his work in many media publications including the British Medical Journal and HuffPost to name a few.

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