The Gauteng Department of Health has recently expressed concerns over the rise in cases of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and HIV within the region. The latest data reveals a significant surge in individuals seeking treatment for these health issues.
From April to December 2023, a total of 167,109 men have approached healthcare facilities for treatment. A notable 40% of these cases were diagnosed with Male Urethritis Syndrome (MUS), a condition indicative of recent STI acquisition. MUS is characterized by symptoms such as discharge from the penis and painful urination. The incidence of MUS has seen an increase from 12% in 2020 to 15% in 2023, highlighting a growing concern in the province.
The Department is particularly focused on areas identified as high-risk due to cultural obstacles that hinder access to healthcare services. Efforts are being intensified in these regions to encourage the adoption of preventative measures against STIs and HIV. These measures include the consistent use of condoms, undergoing HIV testing, participating in counseling sessions, and regular STI screenings.
Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko, the MEC for Health and Wellness, has stressed the importance of using condoms, which are provided for free. She pointed out behavioral factors that contribute to the spread of MUS, urging for a change in these practices.
“In terms of the high MUS incidence recorded in the mentioned areas we have identified behavioural factors that contribute to the high Male Urethritis Syndrome. The contributory factors include high rates of unsafe behaviour such as non-use of condoms whilst engaging in vaginal or anal sex, multiple sexual partners, inconsistent condom use, high levels of substance use and cultural norms,“ said Nkomo-Ralehoko.
The Department has also raised an alarm over the increasing reliance on Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) by women, without the consistent use of condoms. This calls for a more active engagement of men in PrEP initiatives to ensure a more comprehensive approach to protection against STIs and HIV.
The Gauteng Department of Health’s warning serves as a crucial reminder of the ongoing battle against STIs and HIV. By addressing behavioral factors and advocating for comprehensive prevention strategies, there is hope for reducing the spread of these infections in the province.