Health NGO urges men to circumcise and use condoms amid increase in STIs

Health non-profit Right to Care has urged men to circumcise, use condoms and seek treatment in a bid to help reduce sexually transmitted infections (STIs) which are on the rise.

This comes days after the Gauteng Department of Health (GDoH) issued a warning against engaging in risky sexual behaviour as it noted a surge in STIs and HIV infections across the province.

The NPOs call for action is also in support of the Department of Health’s drive during STI and Condom Awareness Week (February 10 – 16, 2024).

The drive aims to raise awareness about STI prevention, screening and treatment and promote the correct and consistent use of condoms.

According to the NPO, men can reduce risk of contracting STIs, including HIV, by circumcising, avoiding risky sexual behaviour and taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) or post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).

Dr Nelson Igaba, senior technical specialist for Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision at Right to Care, said: “Uncircumcised men are more susceptible to STIs than men who are circumcised, especially STIs that cause ulcers or wounds.

Igaba added that STIs “significantly” increase the risk of acquiring HIV infection and that most STIs can be treated and cured.

He emphasised the importance of visiting the closest health facility routinely for STI screening and to check HIV status.

What is Male urethritis syndrome?

In a media statement released Sunday, the Gauteng Department of Health reported that between April and December 2023, a total of 167,109 men sought treatment at public health facilities in Gauteng, with a significant portion—67,400 (40%)—being treated for Male Urethritis Syndrome (MUS). This, the department said, is indicative of newly acquired STIs.

“We urge men to know the symptoms of STIs and to go to their closest health facility for treatment if they have symptoms,” Igaba said.

MUS is the most prevalent STI in men with gonorrhoea and chlamydia being the primary drivers of MUS in South Africa. Other STIs include herpes simplex and syphilis.

Authorities are urging men to be circumcised and use condoms, because when left untreated, an STI can lead to several complications in females such as stillbirths, miscarriages and abnormalities and infertility. STIs also increase a woman’s risk of acquiring HIV.

For men, STI symptoms in men include burning or itching in the penis, penile discharge, pelvic pain, genital sores, burning sensation during urination or bowel movements, and frequent urination.

“When used correctly, male and female condoms are effective in preventing the transmission of most STIs including HIV. Condoms also prevent unplanned pregnancies. We recommend combining multiple prevention strategies to prevent HIV and other STIs. For example, use a condom, circumcise and take PrEP or PEP if you engage in risky sexual behaviour or accidental exposure,” said Igaba.

Where and how to seek treatment

Circumcisions can be performed at most Department of Health facilities. Alternatively, one can also send a ‘please call me’ or contact Right to Care’s circumcision call centre on 082 808 6152.

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