We all know that February is the month of love, but since February 2006, the National Department of Health in South Africa has designated February as National Reproductive Health Month.
The World Health Organization (WHO) describes reproductive health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes. Reproductive health implies that people can have a satisfying and safe sex life and that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so.
The different areas of focus for the month include sexually transmitted infections (STIs), condom use, sexual health awareness and pregnancy education.
The key messages for this awareness month include:
- Maternal deaths can be reduced by attending antenatal clinics early in the pregnancy.
- Cervical cancer can be prevented by vaccination and screening at your nearest clinic.
- Prevention and prompt treatment of STIs can prevent reproductive health problems later.
- Mens involvement in sexual and reproductive health can make a difference.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
STIs are among the most common communicable diseases and constitute a major global public health burden. In South Africa, estimates of people newly infected with STIs in 2017 were approximately 4.5 million for gonorrhea, 6 million for chlamydia and 71 000 for syphilis.
A sexually transmitted infection, or STI, is a disease (bacteria, virus, or parasite) that is usually passed from one person to another through sexual activity. This does not necessarily have to include penetration as some STIs are passed from skin-to-skin contact.
Some STIs can also be spread through non-sexual means such as via blood or blood products. Many STIs - including syphilis, hepatitis B, HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, and HPV - can also be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy and childbirth.
A person can have an STI without having obvious symptoms of disease. Common symptoms of STIs include vaginal discharge, urethral discharge or burning in men, genital ulcers, and abdominal pain.
How do we prevent the spread of STIs in our communities?
- STOP the STIGMA around STIs: so that those with infections can access care and treatment without fear of discrimination.
- COMMUNICATE: talk freely with our partners about STIs and safe sex practices and educate our children about STI prevention.
- COOPERATE: with each other and with healthcare workers, access treatment if infected and refer partners for care.
- CONDOMISE: consistent and correct condom use will protect against infection and unplanned pregnancies and prevent the spread of STIs to others.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract. Most sexually active women and men will be infected at some point in their lives, and some may be repeatedly infected. The peak time for acquiring infection for both women and men is shortly after becoming sexually active.
HPV is sexually transmitted, but penetrative sex is not required for transmission. Skin-to-skin genital contact is a well-recognized mode of transmission. Cervical cancer is by far the most common HPV-related disease. Nearly all cases of cervical cancer can be attributable to HPV infection. HPV can be prevented through a vaccination.
According to the WHO:
- Every day in 2017, approximately 810 women died from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.
- Between 2000 and 2017, the maternal mortality ratio (MMR, number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) dropped by about 38% worldwide.
- 94% of all maternal deaths occur in low and lower middle-income countries.
- Young adolescents (ages 10-14) face a higher risk of complications and death as a result of pregnancy than other women.
- Skilled care before, during and after childbirth can save the lives of women and newborns.
Early access to antenatal care, especially starting in the first trimester, can assist with better management of the pregnancy.
Sexual health is a vital part of overall personal wellness. The ways in which you take care of yourself sexually can make a major difference to your quality of life.
A positive sexual experience is one that includes the most enjoyment for you and your partner, while also reducing or eliminating any potential health risks through proper preparation and education.
The services available at Campus Health Service include, but are not limited to, STI screening and management, pap smears, breast exams, prostate exams, HIV testing, pregnancy tests, contraception (family planning), advice regarding and prescriptions for HPV vaccines, Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) and Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) prescriptions.
Please call and make an appointment to see a doctor or a sister at one of our clinics:
- Stellenbosch Campus: 021 808 3494/6
- Tygerberg Campus: 021 938 9590