Gauteng health MEC calls on residents to avoid risky sexual behaviour

The National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB and STIs asserts that the ‘government and civil society will go the extra mile in order to overcome barriers of access’. | David Ritchie Independent Newspapers

The National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB and STIs asserts that the ‘government and civil society will go the extra mile in order to overcome barriers of access’. | David Ritchie Independent Newspapers

Published Feb 11, 2024


The Gauteng Department of Health has warned its residents against risky sexual behaviour, as the province has seen an increase in residents presenting with sexually transmitted diseases.

This comes as the department is observing February as ‘Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Month, as well as STI/Condom Week from February 6-10.

In a statement on Sunday, Gauteng Health MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko indicated that risky behaviour was on the rise, with some regions highly affected by STIs.

“With Valentine’s Day around the corner, the Gauteng Department of Health (GDoH) wishes to caution the public from engaging in risky sexual behaviour as this increases the transmission of sexually transmitted Infections (STIs) and HIV infection,” she said.

It is reported that the province has, between April and December 2023, seen a total of 167 109 males present at public health facilities across the province, 67 400 (40%) of whom were treated for male urethritis syndrome (MUS), with data accurately reflecting newly acquired STIs.

According to GDoH, symptoms of MUS include discharge from the penis and burning urination. If left untreated, complications can include pain and swelling of the testes.

Some of the patients have also been diagnosed with gonorrhoea and chlamydia which, according to the department, are the most predominant cause of MUS in South Africa.

The MEC reports that in 2020, the MUS incidence in the province was recorded at 12% and has increased over the years to 15% in 2023, with Alexandra/Sandton, Hillbrow/Braamfontein among the highly affected areas.

“This data reflects an increase of STI incidence in sub-district E (Alex/Sandton) and F (Inner City/Braamfontein/Hillbrow) in Johannesburg, Merafong sub-district on the West Rand, Katlehong, Ekurhuleni South (Germiston, Katlehong and Vooslorus), Lesedi in Sedibeng and Region 7 (Bronkhorstspruit) in Tshwane. Sub-district E and F in Johannesburg has tertiary institutions and high-risk individuals such as sex workers and people who inject with drugs. Merafong is a mining area with a majority of the population male, Region 7 has farming areas where cultural norms hinder uptake of services, especially among men, while Ekurhuleni South and Lesedi have TVET colleges, informal settlements, truck stops and hostels”, the MEC revealed.

To counter this, Nkomo-Ralehoko has indicated that the department has implemented a combination of prevention intervention approaches which incorporate STI components in these areas such as the promotion of consistent use of male and female condoms, which are free and available at health facilities.

Other interventions include encouraging the reduction in the number of sexual partners, increased uptake of HIV counselling and testing, STI screening, delayed sexual debut, as well as the promotion of sexual well-being.

Subsequently, the MEC has urged sexually-active residents to use male and female condoms to protect themselves against STIs and HIV.

“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,” she said.

When it comes to contributory factors, the MEC reveals that these include high rates of unsafe behaviour such as non-use of condoms while engaging in vaginal or anal sex, multiple sexual partners, inconsistent condom use, high levels of substance use and cultural norms.

“We should not let STIs go untreated as they increase the risk of HIV infection and transmission, which will hamper the province’s goal to reduce new HIV infections by 2030,” she said.

The MEC has also encouraged women to start early antenatal care as soon as they realise that they are pregnant for thorough screening of any STI, and appropriate and timely treatment for those who test positive.

“Between April and December 2023, 1 255 out of 66 377 pregnant women who presented at our facilities for antenatal care for the first time tested positive for syphilis,” she said.