Chlamydia is a tremendous public health concern across the world. But, there is one particular continent that has long been struggling with this common sexually transmitted disease, and that is Africa.
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Based on statistics, around 50 million women across the globe carry this infection, but 34 million of them live in Africa, particularly the southeast and Sub-Saharan region. Research estimates that the 10% decline in population growth in this region is the result of chlamydia infection, while 30% is caused by gonorrhea.
While chlamydia may not be the primary cause of population decline, it does have a heavy impact on people’s lives. Those who fail to get treated are vulnerable to pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility.
Even though this infection can be easily avoided and treated, there are around 5 million newly reported cases of infection every single year, and most of them are recorded in Africa. Here, we will talk about the history of this infection, how it’s being managed today, and analyze the statistics on why chlamydia is still so prevalent in Africa.
The History of Chlamydia in Africa
Chlamydia has deep roots, and to better understand these roots, we have to start from the very beginning. Prior to the colonial period, there was one particular region in Africa that stood out from the rest. It was the first region ever to be introduced to sexually transmitted diseases, and that is south Ghana.
Ghana is located in the western part of Africa, with direct access to the Atlantic Ocean. Its strategic location and land made it popular among European settlers. At this time, the settlers forced their way into society and brought the sexually transmitted infections, like chlamydia, to the African region. These infections were never before seen or experienced by the African population.
By the 1920s, syphilis and gonorrhea became widespread with more than 1500 cases recorded in the southern part of the country, records show. Many years later, in 1946, with the arrival of troops and influx of laborers during World War II, tens of thousands of newly recorded cases of various STDs became a serious problem for the region.
At this time, there was no one responsible for controlling the STDs in the country or the continent, which led people to seek other unsafe treatment alternatives to manage the symptoms. Those infected purchased sulpha drugs on the black market.
These drugs were extremely dangerous to their overall health but were the only method of treatment available to the mass population. It wasn’t until 1986 that government officials finally turned their attention to managing STDs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and AIDS.
In an effort to put an end to these serious diseases, in 1992, STD control programs, treatments, detection, and prevention methods were finally initiated.
How Is Chlamydia Managed Today?
In 2008, Africa gained access to top-quality STD programs for effective treatment. These treatments are available all across the continent, and since then, around 44% of those infected have received proper treatment. Based on the records from decades ago, this is a considerable improvement.
Now, many health practitioners and volunteers participate in programs to raise awareness of STDs to help those infected better understand their infection. These efforts have paid off, and since 1999, chlamydia infections have dramatically decreased. With the help of counseling, now 85% of people are aware of the existence of STDs, and many of them have access to adequate treatment.
Why Is Chlamydia Still a Serious Problem in Africa?
For many years, the world has had access to proper STD treatments and preventive methods, but in Africa, these bacterial infections still remain a pressing concern. Based on records, Africa is the number one most infected region with STDs. It’s so prevalent that 14 million children have lost one or both of their parents due to these infections.
There are four major reasons that hinder the effects of STD treatment programs in Africa, and these are:
- Inadequate Infrastructure
- Lack of funding
- Insufficient workforce specifically trained to adapt to this environment
Many infected have yet to try to manage their disease or attend programs. Most of the people who don’t get counseling, medications, or don’t use preventions are males. Results have shown that these programs and coverages are not enough to control the epidemic.
Most of the population in Africa is poor and can’t afford any vaccines or medications for treatment. Also, health facilities that offer chlamydia treatment services are far away from rural neighborhoods and are often situated near more populated cities or towns. This makes the facilities less accessible for a huge percentage of the infected population.
But, even if all individuals had access to these treatment facilities, health practitioners will often face one major problem, and that is the discriminatory law.
People who live in Africa are very discriminating towards individuals who are found HIV positive or carry any STDs. Those who carry the infection and publically announce it can get humiliated in front of their village or tribe. Based on statistics, women often carry the blame for spreading infection, such as chlamydia, regardless of who actually transmitted the infection.
Out of fear of being tested positive, those infected would avoid getting tested or receive proper treatment. This is something many health practitioners are unequipped to deal with.
Chlamydia has a long history, particularly in Africa
Africa has long been the most infected continent with sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia. Due to poverty, lack of information, proper education, medical facilities, and treatments, these infections have become an epidemic. This is how the bacterial infection has affected the entire continent and how it’s managed today.
To cope with such a serious problem, people should first learn about these infections. That way, they can overcome the discrimination and prejudice they have about these infections. However, this is something that can prove difficult in the African region. Despite the success in treating these infections, chlamydia still remains a serious issue for most of the population.