STDs on the rise in Naivasha amid Safari Rally, Nakuru County confirms – Nairobi News

The National Syndemic Disease Control Council (NSDCC) has issued a grave warning about the soaring rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among young people, casting a shadow over broader health initiatives.

Speaking in Naivasha during the Safari Rally, NSDCC Chief Executive Officer, Dr Ruth Masha, said the health sector was facing a significant rise in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among young people, threatening progress in broader health initiatives.

“The other challenge we face as a ministry in terms of clawing back the gains we are making in the response is the number of young people who are contracting sexually transmitted diseases. In particular, one of the diseases that we call the silent epidemic is chlamydia. And chlamydia, the challenge is that if they are exposed to early sexual abuse, especially without condoms, what we know is that when they start to reach reproductive age, we find a lot of infertility cases,” Dr Masha said.

Dr Masha also noted that high-risk adolescents are using pre-exposure prophylaxis, indicating proactive measures among certain population groups.

However, she expressed concern about the increased demand for post-exposure prophylaxis during their presence in Nakuru County, signalling gaps in public education.

“This suggests that these people have always been at risk and are waiting for an incident to occur before seeking intervention. Despite progress in HIV treatment and prevention, the increase in STIs poses a new challenge. We are seeing an increased demand for post-exposure prophylaxis, reflecting a gap in public education. While pre-exposure prophylaxis can be effective, it needs to be taken at least seven days before potential exposure. The challenge comes when we see a high demand for post-exposure prophylaxis because it means that incidents have already occurred,” she said.

Dr Masha highlighted the critical window for seeking post-exposure prophylaxis, citing data showing that many people seek it late, often beyond the effective 72-hour timeframe.

“Last year alone, over 114 people, including those who were victims of sexual assault, contracted HIV due to delayed intervention; it’s imperative that individuals, regardless of circumstances, seek prompt medical attention to access necessary interventions,” she said.

Highlighting the unpredictability of future incidents, Dr Masha cautioned against complacency, while stressing the link between alcohol and drug abuse and increased HIV transmission rates, particularly among young people.

“You can’t keep relying on post-exposure prophylaxis week after week, only to find yourself in the same situation later in the year. Whether it’s a broken condom or not having one available, many people attribute their risky behaviour to alcohol consumption. About 6.5 per cent of them admit to having unprotected sex under the influence of alcohol or other substances, such as smoking,” she said.

Dr Masha stressed that the choices young people make today can have long-term consequences beyond the immediate risks of pregnancy and HIV.

“We need to talk to them about cervical cancer; many young people are unaware that unprotected sex can increase their risk of cervical cancer if they acquire the human papilloma virus,” she said.

Dr Masha further emphasised that their efforts underscore a commitment to ensuring widespread accessibility and evidence-based service provision, which includes careful screening procedures for individuals disclosing instances such as unprotected sex, and facilitating access to HIV preventive drugs in high-risk situations.

“Our proactive stance ahead of the Safari Rally underlines the importance of anticipating and addressing the needs of young people. Trained youth volunteers are strategically positioned to engage their peers and promote ownership and trust within the community. This approach isn’t limited to specific events, but underscores a broader commitment as a nation, parents and stakeholders to acknowledge and prepare for such realities,” she said.

Joyce Echeche, Chief Officer of Public Health for Nakuru County, echoed Dr Masha’s concerns, noting a significant increase in STI and HIV cases in the county, particularly in areas like Naivasha where the rally took place. Despite efforts to provide resources and services, including condom distribution and HIV testing, the resurgence of STIs is a setback in the fight against infectious diseases.

“We have seen increased cases of STIs and HIV within Nakuru County, more so in Naivasha. And we want to link this to the rally that has taken place. And we have taken an initiative through the stakeholders at the NSDDC that they have taken their time to come and come with resources, come with trainers, come with counsellors, come and talk to our youth,” said Mrs Nakuru.

The Safari Rally is an annual motorsport event that attracts top drivers from around the world and thousands of fans, some from neighbouring countries.

The popular wilderness sporting event is part of the World Rally Championship calendar.

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