How Common is HIV and Syphilis Co-Infection in Ghana, Africa?

How Common is HIV and Syphilis Co-Infection in Ghana, Africa?

HIV and syphilis are dangerous enough when they appear alone, but even more dangerous when they appear together, causing a co-infection to occur, especially in pregnant women, thinking on all of the things that can go wrong with both the mother’s and the baby’s health. in the following article, we will look a bit deeper in the prevalence of a HIV/syphilis co-infection in Ghana, Africa and discuss the risks that an infection of that kind brings.

HIV and syphilis co-infection

HIV, short from human immunodeficiency virus, is a virus that damages the human immune system, causing the unfortunately well-known disease called AIDS. HIV is most commonly transmitted due to unprotected sexual intercourse, including oral, vaginal, and anal, while it can also be transmitted through bodily fluids such as saliva, blood, semen, vaginal and rectal fluids.

Currently, there is a dangerously high HIV prevalence around the world, with an especially high rise in the number of HIV cases in Ghana, Africa. As of 2014, there have been roughly 150,000 people infected with HIV in Africa alone, while it has been suggested that around 91% of the children infected with HIV worldwide are living in Africa.

But it is not only HIV whose rates are high in Africa. There are other STDs to be mentioned as well, with syphilis being one of them. Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a bacteria known as Treponema palladium. This infection is also transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse, with dangerously high rates on an international level, and approximately 8.5% prevalence of syphilis in Cape Coast, Ghana.

The prevalence of HIV and syphilis co-infection in Ghana, Africa

What is frightening about HIV and syphilis is that they often appear in a sort of co-infection, being strongly linked with one another. Although syphilis alone is highly treatable thanks to the discovery of penicillin, it increases the incidence of HIV infections on an international level.

Syphilis and HIV can be transmitted during pregnancy from the infected mother to her baby in the womb, increasing the risk of neonatal death, spontaneous abortus, low birth weight, and congenital syphilis and HIV infection among many others. Because of the high probability of an existing HIV/syphilis infection during pregnancy, it is of vital importance that every pregnant woman is tested for both HIV and syphilis as early as the first visit to the doctor’s office as well as all throughout the different stages of pregnancy.

A study published in the Journal of Infection investigated the seroprevalence of HIV/syphilis co-infection in Ghana, Africa. The results showed that the seroprevalence of HIV/syphilis co-infection is approximately 18.4%, which serves as a relatively high seroprevalence. The researchers continued to explain how early testing and detecting in addition to proper treatment in the cases where there is a positive presence of HIV or syphilis or a co-infection for that matter, contributes to the reduction of the risk of these two infections being further spread among the population.

The study also revealed that when there is an HIV/ syphilis co-infection, the patients usually present with the first HIV symptoms a lot earlier, as compared with those patients where there is only HIV infection being present. This means that by raising awareness, we can work to improve the chances of these patients noticing and reporting their symptoms in the early stages, eventually proceeding to gain access to proper treatment with penicillin and ART (antiretroviral therapy).

Conclusion

In the last couple of years, more and more people in Ghana, Africa, as well as all around the world, have been struggling with an HIV/syphilis co-infection. This co-infection is known to bring various risks and reduce the quality of life of these individuals, but what is even more dangerous is the impact that this co-infection has on the health of pregnant women and their babies.

References

http://www.healthdata.org/sites/default/files/files/images/news_release/2019/HIV%20Press%20Release%20-%20GHANA.pdf

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0953620508001301

http://www.panafrican-med-journal.com/content/article/33/252/full/

https://www.journalofinfection.com/article/S0163-4453(10)00277-X/pdf

Syphilis Infection in Asikuma Odoben Brakwa District, Ghana

Asikuma Odoben Brakwa District

By identifying the risk factors of the common STDs, we will be able to raise awareness for their existence and over time, work to eliminate them. With that, we can act to decline the STD rates on a global level, with a focus on where those rates are the highest. That is exactly what a group of researchers has done back in 2019, trying to identify the risk factors for existing syphilis infection among pregnant women.

What are the syphilis risk factors among pregnant women in Aiskuma Odoben Brakwa District in Ghana?

Syphilis is one of the common sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It is caused by a bacteria called Treponema pallidum. Like any other STD, syphilis as well is transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse, including oral, vaginal, and anal sex.

The first and most characteristic symptoms of existing syphilis infection is a painless sore that can appear anywhere on the sexual organs, rectum, lips, or inside the mouth. People usually fail to notice this first symptom and continue to live with the existing infection, eventually helping it spread if they engage in unprotected sexual intercourse in the near future.

Although we have penicillin since the 1990s, there is a continuous spread of syphilis on an international level, with more than 10 million individuals being diagnosed with an existing syphilis infection each year. Of course, the prevalence of syphilis is higher in high burden countries and rural areas such as Africa, especially in the Aiskuma Odoben Brakwa district in Ghana, Africa.

The overall prevalence of syphilis in Aiskuma Odoben Brakwa district in Ghana has been estimated to be around 3.2% with a higher prevalence among women, about 5.7%, as compared to men, among which the prevalence is around 1.7%. The prevalence seems to be dangerously high among pregnant women with a prevalence of 1.6% in 2016, which poses its own threats knowing how syphilis can be easily transmitted to the baby in the womb during pregnancy.

But it is not only the congenital syphilis infection that we need to fear. Other complications such as stillbirth, low birth weight, spontaneous abortion, and neonatal death are possible as well. In fact, syphilis during pregnancy is considered to be the second leading cause of stillbirth on a global level.

Because of the high prevalence rates, researchers have conducted a study that was later published in 2019, with the hopes of identifying the exact risk factors for developing a syphilis infection during pregnancy among pregnant women in the Aiskuma Odoben Brakwa district in Ghana, Africa. Identification of the risk factors can help to later focus on their elimination and improvement so that the rates of syphilis can significantly decline.

One of the risk factors was found to be married since syphilis infection was more common among couples that have been married as compared to those individuals who have been single, although the difference was not significant. The prevalence of syphilis was high in those who have reported a history of coerced sexual intercourse and those who have engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse of any kind with multiple partners. Living in rural areas such as the Aiskuma Odoben Brakwa district in Ghana, Africa played one of the biggest roles as a significant risk factor.

Biggest risk factors

As it turns out, being in a marriage, living in a rural area, and having a history of coerced sexual intercourse play the role of the biggest risk factors for syphilis in the Aiskuma Odoben Brakwa district in Ghana, Africa where there has been a high syphilis prevalence, especially in women and in pregnant women.

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5973824/
https://bmcinfectdis.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12879-019-3967-6#ref-CR5
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6527824/
https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/35/Supplement_2/S200/316361
https://www.who.int/gho/sti/en/
https://bmcinfectdis.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12879-019-3967-6

How long it takes for STD symptoms to appear or show up on a Test?

STD Testing

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are a common occurrence across the globe, particularly in developing countries such as Ghana. The public stigma associated with getting tested leaves sexually active people at high risk of developing some STD or unknowingly transmitting it to someone else. Sexually active men and women should get tested at least once a year and even frequently, so if they have multiple partners. Most people wonder how long it takes for symptoms of STD to show up or when they get detected through testing, and we are about to provide the answers. Read on to learn more.

How long it takes for STD to show up?

At first glance, it may seem logical that as soon as STD-causing bacteria (or virus) enter the body, you can get a test that would detect it. However, the processing route is more complicated than that. Generally speaking, we get infected when bacteria or other pathogens enter our bodies. Every infection has its own timeframe for susceptibility or incubation time, and STDs are not the exception.

For some STDs, the body starts producing antibodies to counteract infection and develops symptoms in a matter of a few days, but for others, it may take up to several months for the first signs to appear. Below, you can see the incubation period for various STDs:

  • Chlamydia – 7-21 days
  • Genital herpes – 2-12 days
  • Gonorrhea – 1-14 days
  • Syphilis – 3 weeks – 20 years depending on the type
  • Oral herpes – 2-12 days
  • Trichomoniasis – 5-28 days

During the incubation period, a person may not experience symptoms at all. Bear in mind that some people don’t develop any symptoms at all. So, if you’re in a high-risk group of developing some STD, it’s a good idea to get tested, but not too early as you may test negative i.e., the STD might not be detected. Wait for the incubation period to end or consult a doctor who will advise you regarding the right time to get tested.

When to get retested?

People with some STDs may need to get retested after a while to make sure their infection has been cured completely. Some patients don’t need to get retested, though. Here are a few examples:

  • Chlamydia – 3 months
  • Genital and oral herpes – no retesting necessary (lifelong infections)
  • Gonorrhea – 3 months
  • Syphilis – 4 weeks
  • Trichomoniasis – 2 weeks

Why get tested?

Most people underestimate the importance of getting tested. The danger of STDs is that they don’t always induce symptoms, and it’s easy to spread them to sex partners. When left untreated, they can cause a number of complications. Therefore, make sure to get tested and protect your health, general wellbeing, and partner. Nowadays, it’s easy to learn whether you have STD because it’s possible to get tests online and do the whole thing in the comfort of your home.

Every type of STD has its own incubation time during which people usually don’t notice any symptoms. Testing too early could yield negative results even if the person has STD, so test at an appropriate time if you suspect to have some sexually-transmitted disease. Or even better, get tested for STD once a year and even more frequently if you have multiple sex partners.

References

https://www.healthtestingcenters.com/how-long-should-i-wait-test-std/

https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/sexual-health/how-soon-do-sti-symptoms-appear/

https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-does-it-take-for-std-to-show-up

Congenital Syphilis is On the Rise with Developing Countries at a Major Risk

Syphilis information

Congenital syphilis is the second cause of stillbirths around the world, malaria being the first. This infection is an incredibly common STIs that has resulted in more than 200,000 stillbirths across the globe. Plus, there are 6 million new reported cases of infected every single year.

In order to eliminate this infection on a global scale, the WHO has made it their mission to give access to adequate syphilis treatment and testing for any pregnant woman. The idea is to boost the overall health and improve the survival rate of children born in developing countries.

However, these countries, particularly in the sub-Saharan African region, have long been struggling to deal with the infection. It seems that they have yet to fulfill their goal of dealing with congenital syphilis.

Read more: Syphilis Symptoms

The Importance of Early Syphilis Diagnostics for Pregnant Women

With the current advances in science and technology, there are adequate medications that can help treat this infection. Plus, it is easily preventable, so people can take precautions to avoid this infection altogether.

For pregnant women, however, the timing has to be impeccable. These women need to seek syphilis screenings early in the pregnancy to receive benzathine penicillin G (BPG). The best time for this screening would be right before the second trimester.

Shortage of Benzathine Penicillin Puts a Strain on Syphilis Treatment

In many parts of the world, WHO has been successful in eliminating congenital syphilis in pregnant women. Twelve countries have managed to eliminate maternal syphilis completely. For developing countries, however, it’s a completely different story.

Read More: Syphilis Treatment

In these countries, there is one major issue, and that is the shortage of benzathine penicillin.

Based on an analysis carried out by multiple research programs for health, of the 95 countries evaluated, 49% had BPG shortages, while 59% stated they had adequate supplies for all their patients.

Due to BPG shortages, 10 of these countries stated relying on alternative and cheaper treatment.

They used ceftriaxone, erythromycin, and amoxicillin. The problem is that these treatments were not nearly as effective as BPG for maternal syphilis. In other words, women who received these treatments could still pass their infection onto the fetus.

The Need for Immediate Action Is Now

According to WHO, 95% of all pregnant women who get prenatal care should be screened for congenital syphilis. Testing for syphilis is of utmost importance for early and adequate syphilis treatment.

This should be the main concern for prenatal care for all countries. If a woman is diagnosed with this infection, she needs to get proper BPG treatment to make sure the infection is no longer in her system.

Product: Right Sign Syphilis Test

Product: One Step Syphilis Test

Monitoring Health Is the Key to Eliminating Congenital Syphilis

Once a woman has been treated for syphilis, especially when pregnant, her health must be monitored closely to make sure the infection doesn’t reappear or progress. This helps detect the infection early on and receive treatment to avoid any potential complications.

Congenital syphilis can be easily managed

Congenital syphilis can be easily managed and treated. But, without an on-time diagnosis, a pregnant woman can pass this infection onto her child and cause premature death, low infant weight, defects, and can cause deformities. As a result, syphilis screening and treatment should be a top priority for all developing countries.

References

https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/congenital-syphilis-estimates/en/

https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/shortages-benzathine-penicillin/en/ https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/congenital-syphilis/WHO-validation-EMTCT/en/

Common STDs and How to Recognize Them

Online STI Test Kits For Home Use

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are conditions passed from one person to another through sexual contact. Millions of people around the globe have STDs, especially in developing countries, including Ghana and other African nations. Prevention of STDs is entirely possible, but to make it happen, we need to get informed and learn as much as we can about them. The main purpose of this post is to highlight common STDs and show you how to recognize their symptoms.

Genital herpes

Genital herpes is a common STD caused by the herpes simplex virus. The virus is categorized into two types: HSV-1, which is mainly transmitted through oral-to-oral contact, usually causing cold sores, but can also induce genital herpes and HSV-2, which is an STD.

How common is genital herpes?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 3.7 billion people under the age of 50, or 67% of the world population, have HSV-1 infection. About 417 million people aged 15-49, or 11% of the world population, have HSV-2 infection. Estimates show that 350 million women (87%) and 355 million men (87%) in Africa have HSV-1 virus. On the other hand, the HSV-2 virus affects 17 million women in 18 million men in Africa.

Evidence confirms that the prevalence of genital herpes in Ghana is high, and it could be attributed to high endemicity and inadequate intervention, especially in women.

Read More: Genital Herpes in Ghana

Who is at risk of developing genital herpes?

Generally speaking, every sexually active man or woman can develop genital herpes. That being said, some people are at a higher risk than others. Common risk factors associated with genital herpes include:

  • Having unprotected vaginal, anal, and oral sex
  • Having multiple sex partners
  • Having a sexual partner who tested positive for genital herpes
  • Being a woman

Symptoms of genital herpes

The ability to recognize the signs and symptoms of some STD helps an affected man or woman to get much-needed treatment. That’s why it’s important to learn how to recognize symptoms of genital herpes, particularly because most people are not even aware they have it. In most cases, symptoms are mild, and patients think they will go away on their own without realizing they have an STD, which they can transmit to other people.

Symptoms tend to develop two to 12 days after exposure to HSV. People usually experience:

  • Pain and tenderness in the genital area
  • Itching in the genital area
  • Small red bumps or tiny white blisters
  • Ulcers which can rapture, bleed, ooze, and make it difficult to urinate
  • Scabs on the sites where ulcers rapture

An affected person experiences flu-like symptoms during the initial outbreak. They may also experience headache, muscle ache, fever, and swollen lymph nodes in the groin. Sores associated with genital herpes develop on buttocks, thighs, anus, mouth, and even urethra. Women can also develop sores on the cervix and external genitals while men can notice them on scrotum and penis.

Men and women with recurrent herpes develop symptoms about 48 hours before the outbreak. They may notice tingling, pain, and itching at the site of infection. The pain may, in some cases, extend down to buttocks and knees.

Read More: Genital Herpes Symptoms

Why get treated?

Unfortunately, many men and women don’t go to see their doctor get this STD treated. When left unmanaged, genital herpes can lead to many complications such as increased risk to other STDs, meningitis, proctitis (rectal inflammation), bladder problems, and infection of the newborn.

How is genital herpes treated?

The cure which could eliminate genital herpes entirely doesn’t exist, but it is still possible to get the necessary treatment. The main objective of the treatment is to lower the chances of transmitting genital herpes to other people, reduce the frequency of occurrence, lower severity of symptoms, and help sores heal. For this purpose, doctors prescribe antiviral medications such as Acyclovir (Zovirax) and Valacyclovir (Valtrex).

Getting tested regularly is important, and luckily, today, you can order a test online and do it in the comfort of your home rather than scheduling an appointment at the doctor’s office.

Read More: Genital Herpes Treatment

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is an STD caused by infection with the bacterium called Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which tends to infect moist and warm areas of the body such as urethra, eyes, throat, vagina, anus, and female reproductive tract.

How common is gonorrhea?

Sometimes referred to as “the clap,” gonorrhea is one of the most prevalent STDs. On a global level, 87 million new cases of gonorrhea are diagnosed each year. Like many other STDs, gonorrhea is also more prevalent in developing countries. For example, one study showed that out of 950 subjects from Ghana, 28% of them had gonorrhea, and men were more likely to develop it than women.

Read More: Gonorrhea in Ghana

Who is at risk of developing gonorrhea?

Just like with other sexually transmitted diseases, every man or woman who engages in sexual intercourse can develop gonorrhea. But, the risk is higher in some groups. Factors that increase your odds of developing gonorrhea include:

  • Younger age
  • Having a new sex partner
  • History of other sexually transmitted diseases
  • History of gonorrhea
  • Having a sex partner who also has concurrent partners

Symptoms of gonorrhea

Some people have no symptoms at all, but it doesn’t mean there is no infection. The absence of symptoms can still mean you are infected and also able to transmit this STD to other people. Generally speaking, signs and symptoms of gonorrhea develop one to 14 days after the infection. Men and women experience gonorrhea differently, and below you can see how they feel when they develop this STD.

Men tend to experience:

  • Painful, red, warm and swollen joints
  • White, yellow, or green urethral discharge that looks like pus
  • Pain in the eyes, sensitivity to the light, pus-like discharge from the eyes
  • Pain in scrotum or testicles
  • Itching
  • Difficulty swallowing or swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • Frequent or painful urination
  • Anal discharge, itching, and pain in the anal area bleeding when passing stool

On the flip side, women with gonorrhea may notice:

  • Fever
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Swollen, red, warm, and painful joints
  • Vaginal discharge yellow or green in color
  • Swelling of the vulva
  • Frequent and painful urination
  • Sore throat, itching, difficulty swallowing, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • Bleeding in between periods
  • Heavier periods
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain and vomiting
  • Bleeding after sexual intercourse
  • Itching and pain in the anal area

Read More: Gonorrhea Symptoms

Why get treated?

As seen above, some men and women may not notice any symptoms at all, but they are still infected. That is why it is crucial to get tested regularly, and home tests could be incredibly practical in this case. Being proactive about sexual health and symptoms of gonorrhea allows you to get the necessary treatment in a timely manner. When left ignored, gonorrhea can cause multiple complications such as infertility, an infection that spreads to other areas and joints in the body, a higher risk of HIV/AIDS, and complications in babies born to infected mothers.

How is gonorrhea treated

The primary route of treatment of gonorrhea is through antibiotics. Partners of infected men and women are also encouraged to get tested in order to prevent transmitting the STD back and forth or to other people.

Read More: Gonorrhea Treatment

Chlamydia

Chlamydia is a common, sexually transmitted disease that affects men and women alike. Just like other STDs, Chlamydia is caused by bacteria, and in this case, that is Chlamydia trachomatis. The STD can be spread through vaginal, anal, and oral sex, but it is also possible for pregnant women to spread Chlamydia to their babies during delivery.

How common is Chlamydia?

According to the WHO, about 127 million cases of Chlamydia are diagnosed each year. That is a staggering number. One of the most common reasons behind the ever-growing incidence of Chlamydia, especially in developing nations such as Ghana, is the lack of public awareness. In fact, the prevalence of STDs in Ghana is expected to grow as stigmatization continues. And, as you are already aware, stigmatization occurs due to the absence of the above-mentioned public awareness.

Read More: Chlamydia in Ghana

Who is at risk of developing Chlamydia?

Factors that increase a person’s risk of developing this sexually transmitted disease include:

  • History of some STD
  • Having sex without a condom
  • Changing multiple sex partners in a year
  • Being sexually active before the age of 25

Getting tested regularly can help decrease your risk of developing Chlamydia. Regular tests also raise awareness of this STD, fight stigmatization, and prevent spreading Chlamydia to other people. Besides “traditional” testing at clinics or hospitals, people can also get at-home tests for Chlamydia, which may be practical for those who want more privacy throughout the whole process.

Symptoms of Chlamydia

Chlamydia is often considered as “silent” infection because many people have it although they don’t experience any symptoms. But, just like with other STDs, the absence of symptoms can still mean you are infected, and you can transmit it to someone else. Bear in mind that even if Chlamydia doesn’t cause any symptoms, it can still damage the reproductive system. First signs and symptoms tend to occur one to two weeks after the exposure to the bacterium. Men and women tend to experience this STD differently. Below, you can see the signs and symptoms of Chlamydia in men and women.

Men may notice the following:

  • Pain in the testicles
  • Burning sensation while urinating
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Green or yellow discharge from the penis

It’s also possible to get the infection in anus. In this case, a man may notice pain, bleeding, and discharge from this area.

On the other hand, women may experience these symptoms:

  • Bleeding between periods
  • Painful sexual intercourse
  • Cervicitis (inflammation of the cervix)
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Burning sensation while urinating

In some cases, the STD can spread to the fallopian tubes.

Read More: Chlamydia Symptoms

Why get treated?

Reasons to be proactive about the prevention and treatment of Chlamydia (as well as other STDs) are numerous. Besides lowering the risk of transmitting Chlamydia to someone else, you can also decrease the likelihood of experiencing various complications. When left ignored or unmanaged, Chlamydia can harm your health in more ways than one. Some of the most common complications include increased risk of other STDs, pelvic inflammatory disease, infection near the testicles, infections in newborns, infection of prostate, reactive arthritis, and infertility.

Read More: Chlamydia Treatment

How is Chlamydia treated?

Just like other STDs, Chlamydia is treated with antibiotics. A patient may receive a one-time dose, or he or she may need to take the drugs a few times a day for five to 10 days, depending on the severity of symptoms. Generally speaking, the infection goes away in one to two weeks. It goes without saying you need to abstain from sex during this time.

Syphilis

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by bacterium Treponema pallidum, and it develops in four stages: primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary. The bacteria can spread from one person to another through direct contact with a syphilitic sore. Just like other STDs, this one also spreads through sexual contact i.e., vaginal, anal, and oral sex.

How common is syphilis?

The World Health Organization reports that 6.3 million cases of syphilis are recorded each year around the globe. In 2016, the last year for which data is available on a global level, 1 million pregnant women had active syphilis, which led to 350,000 adverse birth outcomes. Of these, 200,000 accounted for stillbirths and neonatal death. In Africa, the prevalence of syphilis is high, especially in males in rural areas. One study of pregnant women showed that the cumulative prevalence of syphilis among 4181 blood donors over a five-year period was 2.58% in Ghana.

Population-based studies show greater prevalence, and scientists point out that the lack of precise information can be correct with further research on this topic. More precise information allows scientists and healthcare professionals to create programs to raise awareness and prevent this STD from spreading.

Read More: Syphilis in Ghana

Who is at risk of developing syphilis?

You may have a higher risk of developing syphilis if these factors apply to you:

  • HIV infection
  • Regularly engaging in unprotected and risky sex
  • Man who has sexual intercourse with other men
  • Changing multiple sexual partners

Symptoms of syphilis

Symptoms of syphilis vary from stage to stage.

The primary syphilis is usually indicated by chancre (small sore), which appears on the site where bacteria entered the body. The chancre develops about three weeks after exposure to bacteria. It may be hidden in rectum or vagina, so many people don’t notice it. Chancre tends to go away on its own in one to three weeks. Some people can have one chancre only, but others may have several, and it tends to be painless.

Secondary syphilis occurs within a few weeks after the chancre has healed. A person may notice:

  • Rash starting on the trunk and spreading across the body
  • Sores in mouth or genitals
  • Hair loss
  • Muscle aches
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes

The above-mentioned symptoms may go away in a few weeks, but in some cases, they come and go throughout the year.

Latent syphilis occurs when a person isn’t treated in the first two stages. This phase has no noticeable symptoms, but it may last for years before it progresses to the tertiary stage. The last stage of syphilis involves the spreading of the STD to other organs such as the brain, blood vessels, heart, bones, liver, and joints.

Read More: Syphilis Symptoms

Why get treated?

Without proper treatment, syphilis can progress from one stage to another and cause a number of complications such as the formation of small bumps or tumors on the skin, bones, and other organs, cardiovascular problems, neurological problems, higher risk of HIV, and complications in pregnancy and with childbirth.

How is syphilis treated?

Syphilis is easy to treat when diagnosed in early stages when doctors usually prescribe penicillin. In most cases, one injection is necessary. In later stages, syphilis can be difficult to treat, which is why it’s crucial to see the doctor as soon as you notice sore on your genital area.

Read More: Syphilis Treatment

Conclusion

Sexually transmitted diseases are common but are preventable. Practice safe sex, get tested regularly, and learn how to recognize signs and symptoms. The more you know, the safer you are.

Read More: STD’s in Ghana

References

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/herpes-simplex-virus

https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/28-10-2015-globally-an-estimated-two-thirds-of-the-population-under-50-are-infected-with-herpes-simplex-virus-type-1

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6081947/

https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/sexually-transmitted-infections-(stis)

https://bmcinfectdis.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12879-019-4035-y#Sec5

https://www.ghanahealthservice.org/ghs-item-details.php?scid=22&iid=78

https://bmcinfectdis.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12879-019-3967-6#Sec11

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5998162/

Syphilis

Syphilis information

This sexually contagious disease spreads by the bacteria scientifically known as Treponema pallidum. It is a disease that is making a comeback in many regions where the prevalence was down. Due to its nature, it is the women that inhibit the bacteria for longer before they show any signs. Nonetheless, there is a need for men to have some screening campaigns. Women have mandatory testing during their antenatal visits. The problem with men is it may take years to feel any signs. In the meantime, they are still active in sexual matters. Eventually, they end up infecting several people before finding out their status.

Clinical Stages of Syphilis

There are four medical stages of syphilis

  • Primary
  • Secondary
  • Latent
  • Tertiary

The first two stages are more visible than the latter two, as you will find out. Generally, the first manifestation is usually a painless sore around the infected area. This may be in your genitals, rectum, or mouth. The sore or chancre in medical terms disappears after a while. Since it does not cause any discomfort, many people may not raise the alarm.

Primary

It commences about two weeks after exposure to the bacteria. Some people may stay for a longer period without the initial sore.

Secondary

It is the time when sever discomfort starts to come in. In other people, the rashes and sores may include

  • Headaches
  • Swelling of lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Fatigue

If you do not receive the right diagnosis and treatment, the disease goes to the next stage. If you manage the symptoms, they may go away and continue suffering from the disease.

Latent

It is commonly known as the hiding stage of syphilis. During this time, the disease remains passive in its manifestation. Sadly, the latent stage may take years to enter the last stage.

Tertiary

Few people reach this devastating stage. At this stage, most of your organs are damaged. Symptoms like blindness, heart failure, mental illness, stroke, and defective spinal cord are common.

Read More: Syphilis symptoms

Diagnosis

You may go for a clinical test or opt for the home test kit. It is preferable to visit a specialist, but due to stigma, many go for the self-test kit. Samples of your blood and affected areas go for lab testing. At the clinic, the doctor may request you to have extra venereal disease tests to ascertain the extent of your exposure. In all the two scenarios, you will have authentic results.

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Treatment

Depending on the results, the doctor will discuss with you the next course of action. In most cases, the prescription is a combination of antibiotics. If the damage is severe, the medication will not reverse the situation. But will help clear the bacteria from the system and prevent further health risks.

Read More: Modern treatment of syphilis

References

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2019/4562385/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160511154209.htm

Signs and Symptoms of Syphilis

Syphilis information

This is a sexually transmitted disease that affects the genital and spreads to other parts of the body organs. There are no apparent signs of this disease as it manifests in stages. Usually, one can have the bacteria for many months or even years before noticing anything. This aspect of discreetness is what makes syphilis spread widely. In essence, the clinical signs depend on which stage one is in the disease. Notably, there are four stages.

  • Primary stage
  • Secondary stage
  • Latent (hidden) stage
  • Tertiary (late) stage

Primary Stage

The symptoms of syphilis can incubate in your body for up to 3 months after exposure. In the initial stages, you can develop some discomfort in your lymph nodes. In most cases, the swelling of the lymph nodes does not last for long. Eventually, it disappears. Visibly, you will notice some painless sores on your skin or the entry spot of the bacteria. If the sore develops inside your genitals, you may never notice any anomalies. About half of the people under exposure to the bacteria develop the chancre or sore during this stage.

Secondary Stage

It may take weeks or months for the secondary signs to come out after the initial sores. It is not a must that you have the signs right away. Some start noticing the manifestations after years. Nevertheless, you will still infect others when you do practice safe sex. Some of the symptoms include

  • Reddish-brown sores after skin rashes
  • Ulcer sores in your mouth, genitals, and anus
  • Swelling of your lymph glands
  • Fever and headaches
  • Fatigue and muscle aches
  • Weight loss

These symptoms may disappear and come back later. But it is rare for people to proceed from this stage. Most signs trigger a visit to the doctor.

Latent Stage

This is the stage where the bacteria become passive in your body. You may never develop any signs for years, yet still harboring the disease. Similarly, you may continue transmitting the bacteria to unsuspecting partners.

Tertiary Stage

When the symptoms reappear at this stage, most of the body organs are suffering from the bacteria. This can be way after even a decade. Though there are several signs of this stage, the main categories are

  • Gummatous syphilis
  • Neuro syphilis
  • Cardiovascular syphilis

The combination of the three can manifest symptoms including

  • Brain damage
  • Stroke
  • Inflammation of the spinal nerves
  • Deafness
  • Dementia
  • Heart diseases
  • Damage of the blood vessels
  • Personality changes

Read More: Syphilis symptoms

Read More: Syphilis Overview

Signs in Children

Sometimes the mother may pass the bacteria to her infant during delivery. When that happens, the baby may develop these signs

  • Groin rashes
  • Bone disfiguring
  • Swelling of glands
  • Brain dysfunction
  • Painless sores on the feet and hands

In children, syphilis is fatal. Since their immunity is still developing, the bacteria thrive in the body, causing damage quickly. 

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5809176/

http://www.health.gov.za/index.php/131-diseases/286-syphilis

Modern Treatment of Syphilis with Antibiotics

Syphilis information

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a bacteria called Treponema pallidum. Between the period between 2012 and 2016, the prevalence of syphilis in Ghana, Africa, has been estimated to be 2.58%.

Today, we are lucky enough that Syphilis is easily treated with the use of Penicillin; however, in the past, there have been some controversial treatment methods applied in the Syphilis cases.

Read More: Syphilis Symptoms

Treating Syphilis in the past

In the 1800s, it was common to treat Syphilis infections by using mercury. However, this led to some mild to more serious side-effects, including gum ulcers, and lose teeth, kidney failure, and mercury poisoning that resulted in death. In the 1900s, the treatment with mercury has been discontinued, only to be replaced with the use of malaria to treat Syphilis.

It was discovered that Treponema pallidum does not tolerate temperatures above 40°C. So by infecting the patients with malaria, they would experience hot flashes, which would help eliminate the Syphilis infection.

Later, malaria would be easily treated with the use of quinine. Although this has been a rather effective way to eliminate the infection, and its discoverer Julius Wagner-Jauregg has been awarded the Nobel Prize in 1927, this treatment method has been easily replaced with the discovery of Penicillin in the 1940s.

Read More: Syphilis in Ghana

Modern techniques for treating Syphilis

Since its discovery in the 1940s, Penicillin remains to serve as one of the most common antibiotics used to fight Syphilis. It is the Penicillin G benzathine, a specific type of Penicillin, that is most commonly being used in the cases of Syphilis. If diagnosed and treated in its early stages, Syphilis is highly treatable with the use of Penicillin.

Penicillin is administrated intramuscularly. A single shot of Penicillin G benzathine can help stop the progression of the Syphilis infection. In the case of the brain and the spinal cord being affected by Syphilis, an intensive regiment of Penicillin for about 10 to 14 days is being applied.

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For those who are allergic to Penicillin, other antibiotics such as doxycycline, azithromycin, and ceftriaxone are often used. However, Penicillin is the only recommended treatment for an existing Syphilis infection during pregnancy.

In the case of pregnancy, the known Syphilis infection is treated with desensitization, which will eliminate their hypersensitivity to Penicillin to enable them to take Penicillin safely.

Read More: Syphilis – a short guide to treatment

Get Treated early

If left untreated, Syphilis can lead to serious damage and even death. The high prevalence of Syphilis in Ghana, Africa, points out to the need to raise awareness on the topic of diagnosing and treating Syphilis in its earliest stages.

It can take a single injection to eliminate the symptoms of the infection, thanks to the highly effective Penicillin antibiotic that we have to rely on today. Diagnosing and treating this problem can take a few days, and it can help preserve your life.

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1779891/

http://downloads.hindawi.com/journals/jtm/2018/6574731.pdf

https://www.degruyter.com/downloadpdf/j/opar.2016.2.issue-1/opar-2016-0003/opar-2016-0003.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24185088

https://www.everydayhealth.com/syphilis/guide/treatment/

https://www.cdc.gov/std/tg2015/pen-allergy.htm

Information about the Rapid Test for Syphilis

Syphilis information

The drive to contain the spread of syphilis is gearing for momentum in Africa. Globally, the rise of infections is alarming to the relevant departments. Syphilis is a branch of the many sexually transmitted diseases. It is transmitted through a bacterium known as Treponema pallidum. The four stages in which the disease manifests have different approaches in treatment.

  • Primary Stage
  • Secondary Stage
  • Latent Stage
  • Tertiary Stage

While the primary and secondary are quick to treat, the latent and tertiary are not. If there is a delay in treatment, the disease can spread and cripple other body organs. In extreme cases, there can be fatalities.

Read More: Syphilis Symptoms

Detecting Syphilis

It is difficult to know that you have syphilis. The clinical signs can delay for up to three months. In between, you can be active in sexual encounters, thus spreading it further. The common manifestations can include painless sores in and around the genitals and rectum. Also, the wounds can break on your lips and inside the mouth.

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This is the time to seek medical attention. But since many do not even notice the sore, the lump clears by itself. Then as the disease progresses, more damage occurs in the body organs. In the tertiary stage, your mental and nervous faculties will be on the gradual decline. Regular screening is, therefore, advisable at all times.

The vulnerable groups like the youth, commercial sex workers, gays, and people in multiple sexual relations should take extra care. There are many self-test devices in the market. These test kits are easy to use and accurate in their results. It will pain you a little since you need a few drops of blood.

  • Open up the test kit
  • Put a few drops of blood on the kit
  • A single pink line denotes a negative result
  • While a double line reports positive results

The operating area should be clean. Equally, the room should be of optimum temperature. If you have a periodic interval on your testing, you can detect the early stages of the disease. Since pregnant mothers are at the highest risk of passing it to the infant, screening needs to be regularly.

Read More: Signs and Symptoms of Syphilis

Treatment

When you have a clinical visit early, the disease is curable with little antibiotics. The later stages will take longer to deal with. This will mean a combination of drugs to cure the other organs that may be ailing also. Besides the long period under medication, the disease will be pacified.

However, if the extended period has damaged your body organs, the medication will not repair the damage. But the good news is the bacteria will clear from the body, forestalling any further damage. Self-medication is common after the home test kit results. Unless you are a medical practitioner, it is not advisable to treat yourself without a prescription.

Read More: Modern Treatment of Syphilis

Use of Home Tests for Syphilis

Syphilis information

Syphilis is just one of the many life-threatening sexually transmitted diseases. It threatens to cause some difficult symptoms that can cause great damage to our bodies and minds. And unfortunately, each year, we only hear about new cases of Syphilis with little to no success rate when it comes to treating it as most individuals ask for help little too late. Today, you get to enjoy the privacy of your own home as you get tested for Syphilis and wait for your results to be delivered in just a few days.

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What is Syphilis?

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. There are three stages of Syphilis infection – primary, secondary, and tertiary. As any other sexually transmitted disease, Syphilis, as well, is transmitted by direct contact with a syphilitic sore on the skin or in the mucous membranes during unprotected oral, vaginal, or anal sex. Syphilis can also be transmitted during pregnancy and giving birth.

The prevalence of Syphilis in the Cape Coast in Ghana alone is estimated to be around 8.5%, while the prevalence of Syphilis in Ghana, in general, has been estimated to be approximately 2.58% in the period between 2012 and 2016. Syphilis is highly treatable, especially when detected in its early stage, with using strong antibiotics. Left untreated, Syphilis can lead to a great disability, neurological disorders, and even death.

Read more: Syphilis in Ghana

What are the common Syphilis symptoms?

A syphilitic sore can occur on the mouth, lips, vagina, anus, and/or rectum. The first symptom is a painless sore that, as time passes, enters the second stage when other symptoms occur as well. Oral, anal, and/or genital wart-like sores start to occur, along with a fever, muscle aches, sore throat, weight loss, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, etc. After these symptoms appear, as Syphilis enters its third stage, the symptoms will disappear. It will seem as you are cured, when in fact, this is the hidden stage, which is the most dangerous one of them all. Mental illness, blindness, deafness, memory loss, stroke, meningitis, and heart disease are just some of the most dangerous symptoms of the third stage Syphilis.

Read More: Syphilis Symptoms

Why get tested for Syphilis?

The rates of Syphilis cases are only growing, despite all of the information that is available around us on how to efficiently protect ourselves against the dangerous sexually transmitted diseases. It is important to get tested for any sexually transmitted disease, including Syphilis, keeping all of the dangerous symptoms and health risks that these diseases bring in your life. The best way to prevent any sexually transmitted disease is to use contraceptives, especially when you are having sexual intercourse with a new partner. However, sometimes, the disease has its ways to reach into your life. That is why it is of vital importance to get tested whenever any of the following scenarios happen:

  • You have unprotected sex, especially with a new partner;
  • You have multiple sexual partners;
  • You are HIV positive;
  • You are pregnant;
  • You are a man who has sex with men;
  • You have unprotected sex with a partner who has Syphilis symptoms;
  • You have unprotected sex with a partner who has multiple other sexual partners;
  • You are a sex worker;
  • You are experiencing any Syphilis symptoms.

If you do decide to get tested and the test turns out to be positive, you need to consult your healthcare providers as soon as possible. Only a professional healthcare provider can advise you towards the proper treatment plan for your condition. Syphilis should not, by any means, be left untreated! And as we mentioned earlier, when detected in its early stages, the Syphilis treatment has a good success rate.

Read More: Why STD Testing is Important

Why use home tests to detect any symptoms of Syphilis?

Syphilis is usually diagnosed by performing a physical examination and a blood test. If there is a suspicion that it is a case of Syphilis in its tertiary stage, a lumbar puncture or a spinal tap is being performed. Often, people are feeling ashamed of going to the doctor’s office for an issue that involves their reproductive health and sex life, especially when it comes to getting tested for a sexually transmitted disease. In some cases, a doctor is not available, or it is located far away from the place where the individual is living. Although usually, the cost does not play any role since the testing for any sexually transmitted disease must be covered by medical insurance; doing a home test is usually more convenient. This is where the home tests come in handy.

Home tests for Syphilis come with a self-test kit that contains everything that you need to collect a blood sample that you will later send to a laboratory and get your results in just a few days. The self-test kit usually comes with:

  • A sample tube;
  • A lancet to make a cut on your finger;
  • An alcoholic swap to clean your finger before doing the test;
  • Plasters;
  • Instructions.

Another less commonly used option for a home test is asymptomatic lesion test. A swap is being provided as a part of the self-test kit, which you will be required to rub over the present lesion and later send it over to the laboratory. Most providers offer to determine whether it is a stage 1 or stage 2 Syphilis with this home test. The results usually take 4-5 days before they are delivered back to you.

Read More: Syphilis Treatment

Summary

Home tests are the perfect option that allows keeping track of your reproductive health without going to see your doctor. If you have had unprotected sex in the past, do order your home test of Syphilis to make sure that this infection is not a part of your life. The home test is done in just a few minutes, and you will know the results in a couple of days. Do not hesitate to order your first home test for Syphilis.

Read More: Syphilis: A Brief Overview

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1779891/

https://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/stdfact-syphilis.htm

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/276484782_Seroprevalence_of_Syphilis_Infection_in_Individuals_at_Cape_Coast_Metropolis_Ghana

http://downloads.hindawi.com/journals/jtm/2018/6574731.pdf

https://healthfinder.gov/HealthTopics/Category/health-conditions-and-diseases/hiv-and-other-stds/syphilis-testing-questions-for-the-doctor