The scourge of sexually transmitted diseases or STDs known globally is endemic. It is an estimate that over 20 million people are living with HIV in East and Southern Africa alone. If other regions of the African continent are to be included, that figure is colossal. Besides the HIV/ AIDS problem, there is a silent epidemic that is devastating the African society daily. The BBC News WHO statistics show that the prevalence of curable sexually transmitted diseases rate at one million new infections daily.
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What is troubling is the age demography and gender of the most affected groups of society. In most cases, it is the reproductive bracket of between 16 and 49 years that suffers. In a recent forum in Rwanda, African first ladies met to discuss the impact of STDs on the lives of women and children.
On this platform, we shall look into the effects of the STDS on the quality of life. This is most notably in the African context.
- Psychological Trauma
This is the first thing that affects the victim. Africa is still a pretty conservative society when it comes to matters of social morality. Ironically, it has the highest number of sufferers. This paradox is the principal cause of the frustrations of most victims. The first thing one feels is a shame. Sexual infections like chlamydia and syphilis bring about serious manifestations in the genital area.
The stigma that comes with opening up can be devastating. Family members and the immediate support base distance from the victim. When this happens, one ends up with nothing to lean on. In some cases, even health professionals trigger shame by assuming the sinful life of the victim. Ultimately, the sufferers become social pariahs and isolate themselves. That can lead to mental disturbances in victims.
- Reproductive Health Problems
The social fabric of African society is primarily patriarchal. Thus some communities may condone men to have multiple sexual partners. Women are on the receiving end of this practice. The reproductive effects of STDs in women are more severe than in men. The clinical symptoms gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis come out when some of the reproductive organs are on their decline.
In the wake of these situations, many women contract STDs and suffer silently. The health facilities in most areas lack the necessary medication on the same. Again, the stigma in society pushes people to go for self-medication. This opens the way for more destruction to the internal reproductive system. Untreated STDs cause numerous consequences. The most endemic is infertility in both men and women. Numerous families end up in divorce or separation due to the lack of children.
- Social Disintegration
The extent of poverty in the communities is a primary factor in the spread of STDS. Men prey on young girls and vulnerable women for sex in exchange for financial favors. Since the men are the financiers here, the young girls have little say on the matter. This leaves them exposed to STDs and HIV. It is alarming to see the high rate of school dropouts in girls due to pregnancy. The perpetrators of these acts usually are grown-up men.
While several organizations are working to educate young girls about STDs and financial empowerment to women, success is still low. It is this equality gap that brings about the vulnerability in girls and women. In poor settlements, girls rarely finish their studies. This contributes to the high number of sex workers. The lack of protective knowledge also gives rise to the spread of STDs and the ultimate disintegration of society.
- Economic Strains
On a personal level, victims of STDs use a vast amount of their finances to treat the diseases. In most cases, they do this in total discreet silence. For those with HIV, the burden is more significant. The ARVs are more expensive than treatable gonorrhea or chlamydia. Though gonorrhea is easy to treat, the reinfection makes it difficult for most treatment. So, misuse of drugs is gradually giving rise to drug-resistant strands of gonorrhea. Subsequently, that will give rise to the cost of medication by the patients.
In some countries, the government offers subsidies in the medication. Though this is good, the amount of money that goes to the medicine deprives other crucial sectors of the economy of funds. In 2015, Swaziland spent USD 16 million on the treatment of HPV. With a per capita background of USD 2,598, it is a high cost for a population of less than two million.
In South Africa alone, 71,000 people died in 2018 of HIV related deaths. This deprives the country of the most productive segment of the economy of human resources. Without the human resource, the economy will have a reduction in growth.
- Poor Societal Growth
It is a result of the lack of prevention that gives rise to this factor. Six percent of the pregnancies in Southern Africa report cases of syphilis. The deaths resulting from the STDs are enormous. With many parents dying of AIDS, young people see the engagement in unsafe sex as a way to gain meaningful employment. Oblivious of the dangers, the cycle of infections continue. This places the parental responsibilities on the grandparents who are less economically viable to cater for the families.
In other parts, private organizations are doing an excellent job in sex education and rehabilitation of young girls. But, the rise of commercial sex workers in urban centers is slowing the battle to curb the STDs. Traditional myths and societal norms are making STDs part of our daily lives. In some societies, men believe that having sex with a young virgin will cleanse you of syphilis or gonorrhea. This increases the cases of insecurity in impoverished settlements.