“Anything can happen, check yourself, protect yourself!”
DPI, GUYANA, Thursday, November 01, 2017
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), also referred to as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are quietly prevalent Guyana especially in situations of risky sexual behaviours.
Often times this stems from a lack of information on STIs, which in turn leads to a rapid increase of the infection. Surprisingly several adolescents, who have not yet completed secondary school, are also victims of STIs.
One such person is fifteen-year-old Ashley (name given for privacy purposes) who was recently diagnosed with gonorrhea. As she tearfully related her story Ashley said, “I never thought this would happen to me. All I know is that I was living life normal going to school enjoying myself and next thing I know is, that I started having a continuous burning sensation when I was peeing (urinating).
I didn’t think it was anything at first but after it went on for a while, I got scared as hell and since I been hearing about HPV (Human Papillomavirus) because I thought I had that.”
Ashley recounted that she finally mustered the courage to secretly have a check-up done at a nearby health centre. When she received the dreadful news, the teen recalled feeling light-headed and removed from her surroundings. She had only heard about gonorrhea but didn’t know the details surrounding sexually transmitted diseases.
“When I found out I have that, I felt like my life was over. I’m so young, only 15, and I hardly know about this thing. But I was happy it wasn’t AIDs but I thought this is just as bad as that. But the doctor, she explained what it is and what I can do treat it, and I feel so happy.”
Ashley then had to endure the gut-wrenching task of telling her mother and some of her close friends. She admits to initially holding her mother responsible for her predicament, since she was frequently absent, and never advised her about the dangers of contracting STIs. She also blamed her friends for encouraging to be promiscuous.
Today however, Ashley accepts the fault lies with her since she allowed her friends to influence her actions. She advises young people to be cognizant of the dangers of STIs, “Since you never know what can happen, and if you can’t control your emotions and you want to have sex then be safe. Anything can happen. Check yourself. Protect yourself.”
Maybe Ashley could have been saved from that STI had there been exposed to more awareness and sensitisation.
This indicates that despite the fact that government and non-governmental organisations (NGO) have been conducting numerous awareness sessions, screenings and treatment of persons with STIs, more is needed especially from parents who need to be educated themselves.
Statistics from the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association (GRPA), actively tackling the issue of STIs, showed that 1,339 males and 9,480 females were screened and treated for STIs, for the period September 2016 to October 2017.
The statistics also revealed that gonorrhea is most prevalent among men whilst candidiasis or “yeast infection” is the highest among women. Interestingly there were over 6000 women and over 800 men below the age of 25 were infected.
According to Executive Director, GRPA, Patricia Sheerattan-Bisnauth, periodical check-ups are necessary and key to ensuring non-infection; especially if persons are engaging in unprotected sex. However many persons are ignorant of the ease by which they can contract an STI. In this regard GRPA has been making strides to create awareness including educational programs to inform persons on the dangers of STIs.
“Three years ago we embarked on a program in schools to do comprehensive sexuality education and we have included STI’s, HIV information and a lot more education. GRPA did a survey last year on sexual trends and behaviour among Guyanese youths ages 14-25 and this was quite revealing in terms of the large percentage of youth in Guyana who are sexually active. And those who get infected by STI’s achieved from those interviewed, there was 56% of youth who have contracted STI’s,” Sheerattan-Bisnauth explained.
She recommends that health facilities including hospitals and health centers encourage women and men who come in for other services to be tested for STI’s; that there is confidentiality for persons when sharing their stories and ensure information is readily available.
By: Ranetta LaFleur