21 November 2017
THE country has seen a sharp increase in sexually transmitted infections since the beginning of the year, an indication that unprotected sex is rampant.
Uptake for female condoms has also continued to drop, a worrying development that is complicating the HIV response in the country as women are more susceptible to HIV and sexually transmitted infections.
According a report from the National AIDS Council, which is mandated to coordinate the HIV multi-sectoral response, there was an increase in new sexually transmitted infections between January and June.
“There were increases in new STI cases treated in the quarter under review in six of the ten provinces of the country.
“Harare recorded over 8 000 cases between January and March while over 10 000 cases were recorded in the same province between April and June. Masvingo had 8 000 cases in the first quarter and the case rose to 8 100 in the second quarter,” reads part of the National AIDS Council report for the first and second quarter of 2017.
Midlands province also saw cases rise from over 4 000 in the first quarter to over 5 000 cases in the second quarter.
In Matabeleland North, cases rose from 2 100 to over 2 400 in the second quarter, while in Matabeleland South the cases were slightly above 2 400 in both the first and second quarters.
In Mashonaland East cases rose from over 3 000 cases in the first quarter to 4 000 in the second quarter.
There was an increase in STI cases from the 4th quarter of 2016 to 2nd quarter of 2017. This shows that there is unprotected sex happening.
People between 25-49 years constitute the bulk of people with STIs followed by the over 50 years age group who contribute 64 percent and 22 percent respectively.
National AIDS Council communications officer Tadiwa Nyatanga says the increase in STI cases was worrying as this was evidence that people were engaging in unprotected sex noting that this could derail HIV gains that were made over the past 30 years.
“This shows that there is unprotected sex happening and this is really worrying. There is serious need for behavioural change as this could seriously derail gains that have been made over the years towards HIV response.
“The country has made progress in its HIV fight since it was first discovered over the past decades,” she said.
She added that the low uptake of female condoms was worrying as women were more vulnerable to HIV and STI infections more than men due to biological and social factors.
“Uptake of female condoms had a slight decrease, which could be attributed to few promotional activities for the female condoms.
“The Condom programme is a key component of the Combination prevention strategy with ZNFPC implementing the public sector and PSI implementing the private sector.
“There was an 11 percent increase in uptake of male condom which could be attributed to the promotional activities by PSI and repackaging of the male condom.”
Nyatanga says as the country commemorates World AIDS Day this year on December 1, emphasis was more on prevention, prevention hence calling the nation to prevent new HIV infections through protected sex while those on HIV treatment should adhere to treatment.
This year’s commemorations are being held under the theme, ‘Closing the tap of new HIV infections’.