Francistown — Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) remain a public health problem in Botswana given its role in the transmission of HIV.
This was said by the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAHPA) coordinator Mr Richard Matlhare who added that the challenge needed to be addressed with vigor.
Mr Matlhare, who was giving a keynote address Wednesday at an STI conference organised by the Ministry of Health and Wellness in Francistown, said sex workers formed the main population of STIs and HIV transmission since they did not always use condoms.
He said although there was a slight reduction in new infections since 2010, low condom promotion, persistence of multiple and concurrent partners, alcohol abuse, inconsistent and incorrect use of condoms remained major limitations in efforts to control STIs.
Mr Matlhare said partner tracing rate was at 16-18 per cent as most patients were not able to identify where they got STIs and HIV.
On achievements, he mentioned the partnership with civil society for STIs services to key populations.
Service provision within public and private health facilities together with safe male circumcision were other achievements in HIV and AIDS prevention, he said.
An FHI360 official, Ms Wame Dikobe, said about 47 per cent of new STIs were attributable to key populations while HIV and AIDS prevalence among female sex workers had declined.
Quoting a survey, she said young female sex workers were mostly infected with STIs.
Ms Dikobe said it was evident that there was a reduction in condom use among sex workers which made them more vulnerable to contracting STIs.
She said the main reasons that sex workers gave were that they got paid more for not using condoms and that drug and alcohol abuse resulted in not using protection.
She observed that most sex workers did not disclose their identity when receiving treatment at government hospitals thereby making the provision of proper treatment difficult.
Ms Dikobe said Francistown experienced an increase in STIs such as syphilis adding that knowledge about Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) was low.
Welcoming participants, Francistown mayor Ms Sylvia Muzila said social ills such as drug and alcohol abuse were still a major concern in the city.
She said commercial sex work prevailed in the city with the problem now tickling down to the youth.
Ms Muzila said three years ago both the council and Greater Francistown District Health Management Team launched a kick out campaign aimed at ending HIV infections in the city by 2020.
She said despite all the campaigns undertaken, cases of STIs among the youth were on the rise hence the need for a holistic approach.
Ms Muzila said it was time for introspection and coming up with ways of changing young people's behaviour, especially on sexual issues.
Source : BOPA