Lupane health workers say they are battling to contain sexually transmitted infections (STIs) amid revelations that at least 70% of males in the area have tested positive since the beginning of the year.
The revelations were made by Lupane business centre sister-in-charge Faba Sikhalo at the Defence Forces Day celebrations on Tuesday.
She said the small town had been a hot spot for diseases such as syphilis, even though they had managed to keep new HIV infections in check.
“We are screening for ingulamakhwa (STIs) legcikwane (HIV) as Health ministry, working with National Aids Council (Nac). What made us to take these campaigns to this event is because we have realised that most people now know about HIV, but we are lacking knowledge on STIs. Looking at the statistics at our clinic, most people are HIV free, but STIs are giving us a headache,” Sikhalo told the gathering, encouraging them to visit their tent for testing.
“What we have to know is that HIV infection enters the cells the same way as STIs if you have wounds, that is, when you get exposed to these infections.
“In Lupane centre, we have tried by all means to conquer HIV, but what remains and has been extremely on high risk are sexually transmitted diseases. According to our statistics, the most affected are males between the age of 25-35. Teenagers and elderly people are safe. Whenever we conduct tests, about 50% of patients come out HIV negative, but STI positive.”
Sikhalo blamed truck drivers, who ply the Victoria Falls-Bulawayo Highway, and the thriving nightlife for the STIs.
“The surge started at the beginning of the year and containing it has been difficult. In our various sampling methods, trying to find the reasons, we have established that many after testing negative shun from using protection, especially men of middle age. The ratio stands at 70% males and 30% females who test positive to (STIs),” she said.
Sikhalo said what needs to be done now was carrying out educational campaigns on STIs and one-on-one dialogues.
“There is a need for change of mindset, as I have stated that most of them are HIV-free and they take advantage of that while exposing themselves. We need to up our awareness campaigns in the area. We will be moving from community to community talking about STIs, their relationship with HIV together with the risks and possible ways to combat it,” she said, adding they were now giving out saliva home test kits for STIs and HIV and were encouraging those at risk of infection to test within six weeks of exposure and also seek medication and counselling.
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