Widespread ignorance about STIs in SA
Health experts have warned that sexually transmitted infections (STI) have increased in South Africa, and say that young people – between the ages of 15 and 24 – are the most likely to contract an STI.
Health-e News spoke to three teenage girls in the Eastern Cape to see if they were aware of the dangers of STIs, and how it can be treated.
“STI is an infection you can get when you sleep with multiple partners without using a condom. It can be treated if you go early in your nearest clinic,” said Athini.
Anovuyo said STIs can be picked up if a person has unsafe sex and said infections can be treated.
Asanda said for a long time she didn’t feel well but didn’t go to the clinic because she thought she had a “normal” infection. When she eventually went to a clinic she discovered that she was HIV-positive. “It was hard for me to accept and I regret not going to the clinic sooner,” she said.
Nurse Natasha Mgobhozi said that many young people did not know enough about STIs.
“You are more likely to become infected with HIV if you already have STI. This is because STIs can cause sores or small cracks in the lining of the vagina and on the top of the penis which makes it easier for the virus to enter the body,” Mgobhozi explained.
She said people should be taught that:
- STIs are spread and prevented in the same way as HIV, and therefore preventing STIs will also prevent HIV infection.
- STIs need to be treated. If a person is HIV-positive, an untreated STI makes them more vulnerable.
- All sexual partners of a person with an STI should be treated even if they do not show the symptoms of an STI.
She also said that people with STIs should be encouraged to:
- Use condoms for all sexual activities.
- Go to the nearest clinic and get tested as soon as possible.
- Go with their partner to the clinic to get tested and treated if necessary.
- Stay on their medication.
An edited version of this story was published by Health24.