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Gauteng Health sounds alarm over  rising STI infections ahead of Valentine’s Day

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Lerato Mbhiza

The Department of Health in Gauteng has reported an increase in the transmission of HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the province.

Between April and December 2023, a total of 167 109 males presented at public health facilities across the province and 67 400 (40%) were treated for Male Urethritis Syndrome (MUS). The MUS data accurately reflects newly acquired STIs.

Departmental spokesperson Motalatale Modiba said this is a 3% increase compared to 2020. 

“In 2020, the MUS incidence in the province was recorded at 12% and has increased over the years to 15% in 2023. 

“This data reflects an increase of STI incidence in Alex, Sandton, Johannesburg’s inner city, Braamfontein, Hillbrow, Merafong sub-district in West Rand, Katlehong, Germiston, Katlehong and Vosloorus, Lesedi in Sedibeng and Bronkhorstspruit in Tshwane. 

“Sub-district E and F in Johannesburg has tertiary institutions and high-risk individuals such as sex workers and people who inject drugs. 

“Merafong is a mining area with a majority of the male population, Region 7 has farming areas where cultural norms hinder uptake of services especially amongst men, while Ekurhuleni South and Lesedi have TVET colleges, informal settlements, truck stops and hostels,” added Modiba. 

Symptoms of STI include a discharge from the penis and burning urination. If left untreated complications can include pain and swelling of the testes. Gonorrhoeae and chlamydia are the most predominant cause of MUS in South Africa. 

MEC for Health and Wellness, Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko, stressed the importance of utilising free condoms available at local healthcare centres to mitigate the risk of STIs and HIV transmission. 

“In terms of the high MUS incidence recorded in the mentioned areas we have identified behavioural factors that contribute to the high Male Urethritis Syndrome. The contributory factors include high rates of unsafe behavior such as non-use of condoms whilst engaging in vaginal or anal sex, multiple sexual partners, inconsistent condom use, high levels of substance use and cultural norms,“ said Nkomo-Ralehoko 

Furthermore, the MEC has urged pregnant women to seek early antenatal care for thorough STI screening and timely treatment. 

According to statistics from the department, out of 66,377 pregnant women screened between April and December 2023, 1,255 tested positive for syphilis, emphasising the critical need for early intervention to prevent adverse outcomes for both mother and child.

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