All You Need to Know About STDs in Africa

Online STI Test Kits For Home Use

STDs or Sexually Transmitted Diseases are a serious burden for the overall health of many people in Africa. These diseases not only do they affect health, but they also have economic and social consequences. Based on statistics from 2018, more than 20.6 million people in the south and eastern African region have HIV.

Read More: HIV and AIDS

However, the problem doesn’t solely include AIDS or HIV; in fact, it includes HCV, HPV, syphilis, gonorrhea, HBV, and more. The core of the problem begins with the poor knowledge and awareness of Africans regarding STIs. Based on statistics from 35 different countries across Africa, only 66.8% use condoms, and just 42.5% believe it is possible to get HBV from intercourse.

Read More: Gonorrhea in Ghana

Read More: Syphilis in Ghana

Read More: Genital Herps (HSV) in Ghana

Read More: Chlamydia in Ghana

Most people in Africa hide their STIs because they consider it to be disgraceful. This is a cultural phenomenon that has put a strain on the way people deal with the diseases. Patients are afraid to seek help or address the issue. Research from 2017 shows that 37 million people across the globe live with HIV, while 66% of all cases come from the sub-Saharan African region. That is a total of 5.6 million people. In other words, South Africa has the biggest number of people who live with HIV. 

Even though the economy in Africa boomed in mid-2013, it still remains the poorest continent in the world. In South Africa, the number of people infected with HIV continues to grow, but treatments and other forms of support, like counseling, have increased as well. Despite the scientific progress for treating such diseases, cultural traditions and laws remain a barrier for preventing STIs all across the continent.

Main Focus:

  • The Risk Factors Associated with STDs in Ghana
  • AIDS and STDs in Ghana
  • Genital Herpes Is a Serious Issue
  • Syphilis During Pregnancy
  • Current Challenges and Problems to Overcome

The Risk Factors Associated with STDs in Ghana

Based on statistics, more than a million STIs are transmitted across the globe every single day. Some of these STIs can be treated, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, but others can have serious consequences on the overall health.

In all developing countries in Africa, including Ghana, this is a serious issue, since STIs are the most common bacterial infections that can be transmitted in the area.

The reason why this is so important is that such infections as HIV, for example, can be a serious potential epidemic for the entire continent, research shows. These symptoms in females are easily recognizable like:

  • Discharge
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Painful or trouble urinating
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Blood in the urine

However, in many cases, these symptoms don’t appear often making patients delay their necessary treatment or transmit the disease even more. According to research, if the infections are left untreated, they could make women susceptible to complications during pregnancy. They can cause chronic pain in the pelvic area, infertility, pneumonia, or blindness.

The symptoms in males are a little different, studies show. The most typical symptoms may include:

  • Discharge
  • Narrowed urethra
  • Inflamed testicles
  • Sterility

AIDS and STDs in Ghana

Many infectious diseases, like gonorrhea, were first recorded in Ghana before the European settlers colonized the land. In the southern part of Ghana, syphilis and gonorrhea became a serious problem in the 20s. It took years before the problem dissipated. But, during the late 40s, with the arrival of the troops from World War II and laborers, syphilis and gonorrhea cases only spiked once more.

Based on records, the government didn’t take any necessary precautions to stop the spread of the diseases. As a result, people had to find a different alternative that would help ease the symptoms, and that was sulpha drugs. These were, in fact, illegal drugs only sold on the black market in Ghana.

When the first time AIDS was diagnosed, and cases with trichomonas, gonorrhea, and chlamydia were registered, back in 1986, the government turned their attention towards this serious problem. In 1993, programs were introduced to help control the spread of the disease and raise awareness.

However, due to the lack of funds, people can’t afford to insist on using condoms, which remains a serious issue for the African population.

Genital Herpes Is a Serious Issue

According to statistics, a lot more people in Africa have genital herpes compared to the U.S. Researchers believe that identifying the properties of the viruses widespread in Africa could open the door to new possibilities. Particularly in creating vaccines that could help reduce the rampant infections.

The reason why this is so important is that patients who suffer from genital herpes are more at risk of developing AIDS or HIV. Herpes contains many cells, specifically immune cells, that the HIV infection will target.

Based on the same statistics, 90% of adults in the southern African region have genital herpes compared to the 20% in the U.S. Even though herpes is not something that has recently been discovered, it persists in the African community, often affecting a single person for decades.

For people who never notice these symptoms, the virus could be a silent infiltrator that will slowly disintegrate the health over time. It will make the person prone to more serious infections in the near future.

Read More: Genital Herpes (HSV) Symptoms

Syphilis During Pregnancy

Studies show that Africa has a lack of coverage for treatments and screening for syphilis infections in clinics. The benefits of having such treatments have been well-documented across the years. Statistics show that this particular bacterial infection is accountable for 50% of all stillbirths, particularly in Mwanza.

If this infection is properly treated in the African regions, it can help save many lives. However, it remained an unsolved problem in this continent for a long time. It wasn’t until 1992 that the number of pregnant women screened for syphilis elevated to 100%. Compared to 60% during the previous years, it is a welcome change. Furthermore, 50% of their partners also received proper treatment for syphilis, meaning there are a lot of people who have yet to be treated or screened for syphilis.

Read More: Syphilis Symptoms

Control and Management

According to research, despite the valuable efforts to increase public awareness and knowledge of STIs in Africa, all sexually transmitted diseases remain a huge problem for the general public. These diseases result in numerous deaths, problems with pregnancies, cancer, illness, and more.

In fact, Africa is the number one most affected continent by both STIs and HIV in the world, statistics show. Based on the same statistics, around 14.1 million children have been recorded losing both or one of their parents due to sexually transmitted diseases.

Since 2008, effective and high-quality programs have been implemented. Each of these programs focused on providing treatment for HIV and necessary consultations. The idea was to raise awareness and improve the overall cases in different countries around the continent. Since then, 44% of children and adults are now receiving proper treatment. That is a lot more compared to the 2% coverage patients had in 2003.

The coverage for many is fruitful. Unfortunately, there are many individuals in Africa who have yet to attend programs to control their disease. This is the main problem, and a real challenge for the programs since individuals such as these fail to get tested or receive counseling. Most of these individuals are men.

The increase in the effectiveness of the coverage itself is not enough to diminish the real epidemic across the continent. There is a lot more work to be done to prevent this serious issue. More implementations and findings are necessary if the efforts are to continue.

Due to the lack, or the non-existent infection programs in Africa, it is more difficult to control the epidemic.  But, there is one research, previously mentioned, that shows the effect of the already-implemented programs in this region. Since 1999, syphilis and chlamydia infections have drastically decreased, making these programs beneficial and important.

With all the efforts and available counseling, now 85% of the people in Africa are aware they are HIV positive, and 79% of them now get proper treatment, statistics show.

Current Challenges and Problems to Overcome

All the important advances in research for HIV and STDs have been coming from the data collected in Africa. Many of them are now used on a daily basis in clinics around the world. That makes this continent one of the most important places for studying the effects of the infections. 

But, there are three major problems that slow down further improvements and successful treatments. Those problems include:

  • Inadequate funding
  • Lack of workforce that has been trained to work in this environment
  • Proper infrastructure

Without any of these factors, any further success is seriously impaired. Firstly, infections such as gonorrhea require constant management and monitoring to avoid the spread of the infection. Secondly, all the treatments required and testings necessary cost a lot of money. This can put a huge strain on the currently available funds.

To manage the costs, quick and cheap syphilis tests are now conducted in African regions. Another serious problem that affects the whole effect of the program is discrimination. In many, if not all, African countries, it is impossible for healthcare workers to give any help to patience because of the discriminatory law. Lastly, international partners are crucial in programs such as these. Without partners, the research won’t be able to receive proper funding or take up numerous different strategies.

In this current situation, the HPV vaccine is difficult to afford, which is why many people, particularly women, are at risk of cancer or other diseases. To make the vaccine available for everyone, manufacturers should reduce the cost. After all, these vaccines can save a life.

To make sure that children don’t get the same disease, research shows, it is better to implement the HPV vaccine into typical vaccination schedules for children.

There is also another problem that shouldn’t be overlooked. There are some people in Africa who are more vulnerable to STIs than the rest of the population. These people are sex workers, young women, transgender people, men who have intercourse with men, and those who are imprisoned. While others can still get these infections, the people who meet these specific criteria are more exposed to it, making the infection difficult to control.

Conclusion

For Africa, any sexually transmitted infections are a serious problem. This continent has been the main front for STI research in the last couple of decades resulting in numerous valuable research that could potentially be life-saving.

However, such results can’t be achieved over-night. It requires a series of long-term data, dedication, and collaboration with people and partnerships. In the past, STIs were not that focused on, and people had to rely on illegal methods to obtain medications.

When this research was first introduced, it was able to address only specific issues and focus on counseling. But, as the years progressed and the infections spread, more interventions had to be implemented. Due to the strong scientific evidence, the problem of the STIs is now strongly acknowledged making it a top priority to solve.

The approach to the disease was changed in an effort to bring acceptable care for patients in need. As a result, it was possible to implement interventions that would help control the spread of infections.

To overcome this problem, there are plenty of different steps that should be taken. Some of these steps have begun many years ago, but remain an unsolved issue today. The real problem rests in the multiple factors that halt the progress. Despite having the necessary technology and data for controlling such infections, a lack of funding and cultural restrictions make the problem even more difficult to deal with.

Without a proper vaccine, it is almost impossible to prevent HIV in Africa because of how widespread it is. Since the sexual reproductive health in Africa is considered taboo and irrelevant, it makes it more difficult to share awareness and increase overall knowledge.

Cooperating with partners has made training programs, treatments, counseling, and teaching activities possible. These programs have proved effective.

Reference

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0213224

https://www.unaids.org/en/resources/fact-sheet

https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1000097

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7705861

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

https://insights.ovid.com/crossref?an=00007435-200811000-00011

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

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(12)61729-2/fulltext

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110415083142.htm#targetText=In%20southern%20Africa%2C%20infection%20rates,percent%20in%20the%20United%20States.&targetText=In%20evolutionary%20terms%2C%20the%20herpes%20viruses%20are%20very%20old.

https://sti.bmj.com/content/87/Suppl_2/ii10

http://data.unaids.org/pub/report/2009/jc1700_epi_update_2009_en.pdf

https://sti.bmj.com/content/86/7/488?ijkey=f61101ad7ea4a6d38d38ad09d08ea667c028b5ad&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha

https://www.avert.org/professionals/hiv-around-world/sub-saharan-africa/overview

Treatment of Gonorrhea: Modern approaches

Gonorrhea information

The treatment of this extremely common sexually transmitted disease has become very difficult for the past decade. Neisseria gonorrhoeae – the causative organism has a particularly strong proclivity to develop antibiotic resistance, and many older treatment regimens have become obsolete. So, what are the current best practices for treatment?

Read more: Gonorrhea Facts

Gonorrhea Medicine

  The current first-line treatment of genital gonorrhea involves:

  • A single dose of a cephalosporin antibiotic (most commonly ceftriaxone 250 mg) given via intramuscular injection
  • Single-dose azithromycin (Zithromax) 1 g.

This regimen is very quick and very convenient, particularly because it is often given immediately in the clinic. Those more scared of needles opt for oral cefixime 400 mg since ceftriaxone is only available in the form of an intramuscular injection. It is important to note that cefixime is not as effective for the various types of infections gonorrhea causes outside the reproductive system (throat infections, bacterial arthritis and etc.), and is thus only seen as an alternative when ceftriaxone is not available.

Read More: Gonorrhea Symptoms

All gonorrhea treatment regimens also take into account the coexistence of chlamydia. These two infections often occur together and are thus treated together.

Alternative treatment of Gonorrhea

An alternative treatment course would incorporate ceftriaxone with a tetracycline antibiotic, most commonly doxycycline. This combination is no longer recommended by both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) due to antibiotic resistance. It is generally considered “good practice” to have the local antibiotic resistance characteristics in mind when prescribing. For example, the WHO also states that ceftriaxone or cefixime can be used on their own for treatment provided there is reliable data that the local strain is susceptible to these on their own.

Read More: Why get tested for Gonorrhea

A novel antibiotic for the treatment of gonorrhea is spectinomycin (Trobicin). It is a rarely used antibiotic in the developing world (especially sub-Saharan Africa) due to its cost, having a wholesale cost per dose ranging from 2 to 20 times higher than ceftriaxone or azithromycin. Nevertheless, it can be used as a single treatment, with a 2-gram intramuscular injection enough to fight the most susceptible strains.

There is hope for the treatment of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea in the future. Research done by the CDC and the National Institute of Health (NIH) has shown that combinations of:

  • Gentamicin plus azithromycin or
  • Gemifloxacin plus azithromycin

 Are more than 99% effective for the treatment of genital gonorrhea. Even better, both of these new combinations are given orally. The CDC has not changed its recommendation, though, noting the significant gastrointestinal side effects of these medications as the cause. With new experimental treatments such as zoliflodacin showing promise, not all is bleak for those with sexually transmitted diseases.

Read More: Gonorrhea in Ghana

References:

https://www.cdc.gov/std/gonorrhea/arg/basic.htm

https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/rtis/gonorrhoea-treatment-guidelines/en/

https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/218059-treatment#d9

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6165062/

https://www.jwatch.org/na47824/2018/11/07/new-oral-antibiotic-treatment-gonorrhea

Gonorrhea Symptoms

Gonorrhea information

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by an infection with the bacterium called Neisseria gonorrhoeae. This infection, as the term implies, is transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse, including oral, vaginal, and anal sexual intercourse. Gonorrhea tends to infect warm, moist areas of the body such as the urethra, vagina, the female reproductive system, eyes, etc. Approximately 800,000 Gonorrhea cases have been estimated to occur each year in the United States alone. Luckily, most countries offer a free-of-charge diagnosis and treatment. In the following, we will explain the major signs and symptoms of Gonorrhea to help you learn how to recognize them and ask for help as soon as possible.

Read More: Gonorrhea Overview

The characteristic symptoms of Gonorrhea

The first signs and symptoms of Gonorrhea are expected to occur within two to fourteen days after the exposure. The biggest problem with Gonorrhea is that many individuals never develop any noticeable symptoms, thus exposing themselves to the great risks that come with leaving the infection untreated. In fact, research from 1974 has revealed that approximately 43% of the participants had no noticeable symptoms at all. These individuals also pose a risk of spreading the infection even further, since they are unaware of being the so-called nonsymptomatic carriers.

  • Symptoms in men

In men, the first symptom usually develops within the first week after exposure. In most cases, the first symptom is painful urination. As the infection progresses, other symptoms follow as well, including:

  • Frequent urination;
    • Urgency of urination;
    • A pus-like discharge of the penis, with a characteristic green, white, or yellowish color;
    • Swelling at the opening of the penis;
    • Swelling and pain in one testicle;
    • Persistent sore throat etc.
  • Symptoms in women

It is common for most women to not experience any symptoms at all. And when they do, the symptoms variate from mild to more severe and commonly mimic the symptoms of other health problems, making it a real challenge to make an accurate diagnosis. In women, the most characteristic symptoms are:

  • Painful urination;
    • Frequent urination;
    • Heavier menstrual periods;
    • Vaginal bleeding in-between menstrual periods;
    • Painful sexual intercourse;
    • Vulvar swelling;
    • Vaginal discharge, usually being watery or creamy, slightly greenish colored;
    • Fever;
    • Sharp abdominal pain;
    • Persistent sore throat, etc.

If any of these symptoms are present, do consult a doctor as soon as possible. Gonorrhea is diagnosed by taking a swab and a blood sample that is later analyzed. Antibiotics will help relieve the present symptoms and improve your health. Because of the potential complications, Gonorrhea represents a health issue that needs to be treated as soon as possible.

Read More: Gonorrhea in the eye

Read More: Gonorrhea in the Anus and Rectum

Read More: Gonorrhea Testing and Diagnosis

Gonorrhea, which is a common STD, threatens to cause difficult complications, including ectopic pregnancy, infertility, and even damage to your brain and spinal cord, among others, if left untreated. It is of vital importance for anyone who practices unprotected sex to remember the symptoms of Gonorrhea and get regularly tested for this, and all of the other common STDs as a way to protect their health.

Product: Gonorrhea Test (Right Sign)

Product: Gonorrhea Test (One Step)

References

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

http://www.intheknowzone.com/sexual-health-topics/gonorrhea/statistics.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1947122/

https://www.webmd.com/sexual-conditions/do-i-have-gonorrhea

https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/stds-hiv-safer-sex/gonorrhea/what-are-symptoms-gonorrhea

Why Is It Important to Get Tested for STDs?

Online STI Test Kits For Home Use

STDs stand for sexually transmitted diseases, among which the most common are Gonorrhea, Syphilis, genital herpes, Chlamydia, AIDS, and many others. As the term suggests, STDs are diseases caused by viruses or bacteria that are transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse, including oral, vaginal, and anal sexual intercourse.

Sex is still a taboo in many countries, including Ghana, which only contributes to the widespread of the many possible STDs. Back in 2017, it has been revealed that Gonorrhea has affected approximately 6.6% of the women and 3.5% of the men in Ghana.  The prevalence of the HSV-1 and HSV-2 (Herpes Simplex Virus) was also high in the female population in Ghana. And syphilis has been found to be present within 2.7% of the women in Ghana as well. The prevalence of HIV in the adult population in Ghana was reported to be around 2.4%, being especially high in the Volta Region.

Read More: Gonorrhea in Ghana

Read More: Chlamydia in Ghana

Read More: Syphilis in Ghana

Read More: Genital Herpes in Ghana

5 Reasons why it is important to get tested for STDs

Here you get 5 reasons to get tested for STDS

It is an easy and quick procedure

For most STDs, the diagnosis includes taking a blood sample, a urine sample, or a simple swap. This is a process that can take anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours. It is simple, easy, and quick, and not to mention that in most countries, testing for any STD is free of charge.

Early diagnosis is the key

Early diagnosis is the key to most health problems, including STDs. By detecting an existing STD in its early stages, you are increasing the success of treating and even curing it. Although learning that you are struggling with an STD can be scary, it should not hold you back from doing what is best for your health.

There is the proper treatment for most STDs available

Science has offered us proper treatment methods for most STDs, making it even possible for them to be cured. Even the hardest STDs can be properly treated and maintained so that the patient enjoys a good lifestyle and health quality as much as possible. The first step is getting diagnosed.

Read More: All you need to know about STD’s in Africa

Often STD symptoms are not visible

Unfortunately, many STDs are not causing any symptoms or are causing only mild symptoms until they enter a late stage. Once they enter a late stage, the damage is greater, and the treatment is harder and longer. If you suspect that you might have an STD, you should definitely get tested. For most STDs, their symptoms are not visible by the human eye, and testing is the only way to find out if they are present or not.

Testing helps protect your health

STDs threaten to reduce the quality of your health, introducing various health risks into your life. Infertility, cervical cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease, damage to the internal organs, are only some of the potential health risks due to undiagnosed and untreated STD.

Product: STD Test Kit Bundle (One Step)

Product: STD Test Kit Bundle (Right Sign)

Any STD should be reported to a health professional as soon as its first symptoms occur. However, that is often not the case. While feeling ashamed is probably the most common reason to not report a present STD, people, especially in Ghana and Africa in general, often fail to find a proper health professional that can diagnose and properly treat their health issue. It is of high importance to consult a doctor about any present health issue, including a present STD. And here are five reasons why you would consider talking to a doctor about it.

References

https://www.iamat.org/country/ghana/risk/sexually-transmitted-infections

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0205863

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

https://tradingeconomics.com/ghana/prevalence-of-syphilis-percent-of-women-attending-antenatal-care-wb-data.html

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

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sexually-transmitted-diseases-stds/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20351246

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8261726

https://www.parkview.com/community/dashboard/the-risks-of-untreated-stds

Gonorrhea in Ghana

Gonorrhea information

It is one of the oldest known venereal diseases to humankind. Yet it is the most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa. This is due to the mutation of the disease-causing agents. Most people go for self-medication, making the combating of the disease unattainable. This is not unique to Ghana alone. It is a typical pattern in almost all countries south of the Sahara.

The campaigns against gonorrhea do much less than the intended outcome. As the spreading of the disease continues, most people resort to the traditional healers for remedy. It is easier for treatment at the shrine than in hospitals. It is high time people deal with the stigmatization of the sufferers.

Prevalence Statistics of Gonorrhea

Though it is the women who come forward for medication after testing, the men stay behind. The irony of the matter is the regular statistics in any testing campaign proves that more men have the disease than women. The government needs to address the reluctance to medication in men as soon as possible.

Like in the campaigns against chlamydia, men are shy to come forward and admit they have gonorrhea. Most of them are either in a marriage or in a sexual relationship. Coming forward will expose the extramarital affairs that go on.

Resistance to Drugs

The worrying trend in the recent findings shows that there are many people with a type of gonorrhea that is highly resistant. The tests with conventional drugs are proving futile. The resistance build-up may be a result of self-medication during an infection. After the usage of several antibiotics, the disease develops a high tolerance for regular medication.

It is not a wonder for the disease to be highly resistant to drugs. Most of the government clinics and hospitals lack proper medication for infectious diseases. This gives the traditional healers the power to lead in treating most patients

Mitigation Measures

In the first place, the relevant agencies have to change tact on how they approach this problem. The traditional way of waiting for people to come for testing is not bearing fruit. There must be another elaborate campaign of having people go for testing. In other sub-Saharan countries, the testing personnels visit people in their homes. Though the testing is voluntary, the results are bearing more testing than the wait and see approach.

Many statistics prove that sexually transmitted diseases are an epidemic in Ghana. The numbers keep rising in every testing drive, yet the government is still passive. One of the recent findings is urging the agencies for further observation of the gonorrhea patterns.

Gonorrhea is more prevalent in younger men and women. They fall in the demographic group that is most sexually active and carefree. There is a high need for urgent remedial mitigation.

References

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

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25562852

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/271135531_Gonorrhea_Surveillance_in_Ghana_Africa