Due to a persistent increase in the number of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) in parts of Johannesburg, Sedibeng, Ekurhuleni and Tshwane, health authorities have pleaded for the public to refrain from risky sexual behaviour.
With excitement in the air as Valentine’s Day celebrations draw closer, provincial health authorities have raised concerns about the prevalence of STIs which have remained on a steady increase for the past three years.
Gauteng Health MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko, in a statement, revealed that data had shown that between April and December 2023, a total of 167 109 men presented at public health facilities with as many 67 400 being treated for Male Urethritis Syndrome (MUS).
Worst of all, the data showed that these were newly acquired STIs, the department said.
Out of the 66 377 pregnant women who presented to facilities, as many as 1 255 tested positive for syphilis.
The Health Department said that in 2020, health authorities in the province recorded a 12% increase in MUS, but the latter had increased in recent years moving to 15% as of 2023.
In Johannesburg, places such as Alexandra, and Sandton, Johannesburg’s inner city, Braamfontein and Hillbrow were said to have witnessed increases, as well as the West Rand’s Merafong sub-district.
In Ekurhuleni south, hard hit areas include Germiston, Katlehong and Vosloorus; while in Sedibeng, the community of Lesedi were seeing an increase in infections.
Meanwhile, farming communities located in Tshwane’s Bronkhorstspruit region have also seen a number of STIs.
Nkomo-Ralehoko said most infections in the Johannesburg area, in particular, were as a result of tertiary institutions situated in the city’s sub-district E and F, as well as a result of the presence of sex workers and people injecting drugs.
The brunt of the infections in Merafong were attributed to mining areas, as the majority of the population were reported to be men, while in Tshwane infection increases are mainly in farming communities.
In the interim, health officials indicated it had implemented a combination of prevention intervention approaches incorporating STI components, including promotion of consistent use of male and female condoms which were free at public health facilities.
“In terms of the high MUS incidence recorded, we have identified behavioural factors that contribute to the high Male Urethritis Syndrome (MUS).
“The contributory factors include high rates of unsafe behaviour such as the 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.”
Nkomo-Ralehoko added: “We believe that the high uptake of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) among women has led this group to having unprotected sex resulting in a high incidence of MUS. Studies have reported that STI incidence is also high among young women receiving PrEP.”
It was for this reason that she urged men to get initiated on PrEP to protect themselves against STI, while encouraging men and women on the drug to still continue using condoms.