The Gauteng Department of Health (GDoH) has issued a stern warning against engaging in risky sexual behaviour.
This comes after the department noted a surge in Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and HIV infections across the province.
In a media statement released on Sunday, the department reported that between April and December 2023, a total of 167,109 males sought treatment at public health facilities in Gauteng, with a significant portion—67,400 (40%)—being treated for Male Urethritis Syndrome (MUS). This, the department said, is indicative of newly acquired STIs.
What are the symptoms of MUS?
There are several symptoms for MUS, including penile discharge and painful urination, with potential complications such as testicular pain and swelling. Gonorrhea and chlamydia are identified as the primary causes of MUS in South Africa.
The incidence of MUS has seen a worrying escalation from 12% in 2020 to 15% in 2023, particularly concentrated in sub-districts E and F in Johannesburg, Merafong in West Rand, Katlehong and Ekurhuleni South in Ekurhuleni, Lesedi in Sedibeng, and Region 7 in Tshwane.
The department stated that these areas, characterised by tertiary institutions, high-risk populations including sex workers and drug users, mining communities, and cultural barriers to healthcare access, are identified as focal points for intervention.
The department’s plan of action
In response to this alarming finding, the GDoH has rolled out a comprehensive array of prevention measures.
The department urged members of the public to consistently use condoms, get tested for HIV and seek counseling.
The department encouraged STI screening and promoted sexual wellbeing.
MEC for Health and Wellness, Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko, stressed the importance of utilising free condoms available at local healthcare centres to mitigate the risk of STIs and HIV transmission.
"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
Furthermore, the MEC urges pregnant women to seek early antenatal care for thorough STI screening and timely treatment.
According to statistics from the department, out of 66,377 pregnant women screened between April and December 2023, 1,255 tested positive for syphilis, emphasising the critical need for early intervention to prevent adverse outcomes for both mother and child.
The MEC also highlights a concerning trend of increasing female uptake of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV infection, potentially contributing to higher rates of unprotected sex and STI transmission. Emphasizing the importance of condom use alongside PrEP, the MEC calls for greater male engagement in PrEP initiatives to bolster protection against STIs and HIV.