Alarm as laxity, immorality trigger sharp rise in STIs

Tuesday July 21 2020


Scaling down public awareness campaigns, limited training of health workers and widespread stigma are the core reasons for the sharp rise in the sexually transmitted diseases in Rwanda. Photo | Cyril Ndegeya  

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A sharp decline in public awareness campaigns, limited training of health workers and stigma have been attributed to sharp rise in the sexually transmitted diseases in the country.

Statistics from Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) from January to May show that out of 2.7 million people who tested for STIs in the country, 94,500 tested positive for various infectious diseases including Hepatitis B.

In 2019, the total number of those infected with STDs stood at 217,800, and health officials predict that the figure will increase this year.

An increase in STIs infections in the country among them, syphilis, gonorrhea trichomonas and Hepatitis B, and HIV and Aids is attributed also to irresponsible and unprotected sex among teenagers.

Rwanda Today has learnt that diagnostic tests are unavailable and the available testing is often expensive and geographically inaccessible. Patients often need to wait a long time or need to return to receive results.

The vigorous process of getting results on time to start the treatment in most parts of the country impends follow up and care hence had for patients to access treatment.


Dr Aflodis Kagaba, a physician, human rights activist and executive director of Health Development Initiate (HDI Rwanda), said there are limited awareness and education around STIs in the country.

“Stigma is high among people and this is caused by doctors where the majority of them do not have the knowledge or not trained on how to handle or treat patients with STIs, which results into people’s fear to approach a doctor for diagnosis or treatment,” said Dr Kagaba.

He added that “Cross-generational sex (CGS) is an important factor in the increasing cases of diseases where adults are having sex with young girls and boys than before exposing them to infections,” Dr Kagaba said, adding the same boys and girls infected if not treated, they transmit it to their fellow age groups,”

According to the World Health Organisation Organisation (WHO), STIs like herpes and syphilis can increase the risk of HIV acquisition three-fold or more.

Mother-to-child transmission of STIs can result in stillbirth, neonatal death, low-birth-weight, prematurity, sepsis, pneumonia, neonatal conjunctivitis, and congenital deformities.

Approximately one million pregnant women were estimated to have active syphilis in 2016, resulting in over 350,000 adverse birth outcomes of which 200,000 occurred as stillbirth or neonatal death in the same year.

“People neglect early testing for sexually transmitted diseases which gives them room to spread it to their partners,” told Rwanda Today Dr Jean Damascene Makuza, the Director of Viral Hepatitis and STIs Unit at Rwanda Biomedical Centre.

Failure to disclose diagnostic history to partners also increases cases since it is hard to know your partner's health status.

He says that anyone can get an STI. But by being smart about how to have sex and making sure everyone in the country get access to testing and treatment, it is possible to keep sexually transmitted infections from turning into dangerous epidemics.

Dr Damascene says it is easy for a man to know that he is suffering from an STI because signs appear first than in women which makes it easy for a woman to infect.

He says that people should take their antibiotics as prescribed. ''They should not shame friends, family, or partners for having STIs or being at high risk of getting them.

''But advise them to get tested and treated.''