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Cases of sex infections reduced over ten years

By LETRE SWEETING and LYNAIRE MUNNINGS

Tribune Staff Reporters

THE public healthcare system recorded 2,169 sexually transmitted infections in 2022, 61 per cent –– or 1,320 –– of which were syphilis cases.

However, the number of STI cases declined from 2011 to 2022, according to Dr Nikkiah Forbes, Director of the National HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Programme at the Ministry of Health.

Dr Forbes said chlamydia made up 26 per cent of the positive test results or 559 cases.

Herpes simplex virus one and two accounted for five per cent of cases. Gonorrhea made up four per cent.

“The number of chlamydia tests performed in the public health system decreased by 43 per cent between the years 2011 and 2022,” Dr Forbes said yesterday. “The number of positive chlamydia test results decreased by 52 per cent in the 10 years between 2011 and 2022. For gonorrhoea, the tests performed decreased by 47 per cent in the same time period 2011 to 2022, and the number of positive gonorrhoea results declined by 60 per cent. This resulted in a slight reduction in the positivity from three per cent. For syphilis, there was also a decrease in the results that were reported as positive.”

 She added that 1.6 per cent of pregnant women tested positive for syphilis in 2022.

 Health professionals note that some STDs can be diagnosed without a test to confirm the disease. It is acceptable for chlamydia and gonorrhoea, for example, to be identified and treated without a test, so the stats many not capture every person who presents to a public healthcare facility with symptoms of the diseases.

 The National HIV/AIDS programme, the STI unit and the tuberculosis unit were merged to form the Ministry of Health and Wellness HIV/STI/TB unit in 2023. It usually takes months for officials to analyse data from each year.

 2019 was the last time STI stats were publicised in any detail.

 In 2018, there were 265 reported cases of gonorrhoea and 1,004 cases of chlamydia. Data from 2014 to 2018 found that 2,616 people tested positive for syphilis, 53 per cent of whom were men.

 Dr Forbes noted yesterday that STIs can lead to other complications, including increased chances of transmitting HIV.

 “STIs are preventable,” she said. “With a number of STIs, there can be complications. For example, syphilis can lead to complications. There can be other challenges that arise, including infertility, pregnancy losses, and it also increases the chance that HIV can be transmitted.

 “So, appropriate use of condoms is very, very effective. There is chance that someone who is diagnosed with an STI, they also could have acquired HIV.

 “So the HIV prevention modality, oral HIV PreP, is something that persons who are diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection would be eligible for, and I encourage everyone to protect themselves to know the facts and speak to your health care provider.”

 Meanwhile, new HIV cases have declined by 63 per cent over the past ten years.

 At the end of 2022, about 3,943 people in the country were living with HIV/AIDS, making the prevalence rate one per cent of the general population.

 During a press conference on Friday, Dr Forbes said the latest epidemiological data show 112 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in 2021, 16 of whom died of AIDS-related illnesses. She said 68 per cent of them were men.

 “Persons in the age group 40 to 49 years of age accounted for 25 per cent of the cases, which was the largest percentage group, and then persons in the age group 25 to 29 years comprise 24 per cent of cases, and then the distribution was among the other age.”

 Health and Wellness Minister Dr Michael Darville noted that 93 per cent of people living with HIV in 2022 knew their status. He said eighty-two per cent of people who knew their status were being treated, and 81 per cent of those on treatment had their disease virally suppressed.

 With HIV/AIDS medication free of charge to all patients within the private and public sector, Dr Darville said the total number of people on treatment increased threefold from 1047 in 2012 to 3017 in 2022.

 AIDS-related deaths reported to the Ministry of Health and Wellness decreased by 41 per cent from 2012 to 2021.

 Additionally, there was no mother-to-child transmission of HIV among HIV-positive women who were treated in 2022. However, two babies were born to mothers who were not treated. 

 On Friday, the ministry also launched its newest HIV testing modality –– oral HIV self testing, also known as Ora-Quick.

 Ora-Quick is an additional testing approach with greater accessibility given that seven per cent of people are unaware of their HIV status.

 “It is a quick, convenient, and confidential HIV testing option that allows clients to take control of their own health in their own hands,” Dr Forbes said.

 “The tests can be done at home or other private and confidential locations. The instructions are easy to follow and the test results will be available in less than 20 minutes.”

 Ora-Quick is the only HIV self-test approved by the Ministry of Health and Wellness. Ports International is the official distributer. 

 Dr Forbes said Ora-Quick is free through national health programmes and public health services. However, it is also expected to retail for less than $20.

Comments

themessenger 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Maybe introducing that best seller "The Dreaded Disease" by Russian author Ivan Rotchacokoff might have made an impression on our promiscuous peeps --- yes?

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