STI rising under the cover of COVID-19
The containment strategies dictated by the coronavirus pandemic to curb its spread are already affecting the sexual behaviours of restless young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who have been having more unprotected sex, with more of them getting sexually transmitted infections (STI), according to Shaneall Ferron, community outreach and testing manager at the AIDS Heathcare Foundation Jamaica (AHF).
The AHF is affiliated to the world’s largest non-governmental organisation that, treats persons with HIV. It has its office at 183 Hagley Park Road, Kingston and does all HIV testing and treatment there, free of cost. No appointment is necessary, and all information shared is kept confidential. In addition to testing, it also gives advice, free condoms, and lubricants, but sadly, this is not translating into more responsible sexual behaviour.
“What we notice is that we have an increase in STIs because everybody is locked away having unprotected sex, so we are seeing an increase in STIs. I want to encourage persons that even though you are locked away with your partner, just use a condom, protect yourself, and if you think there is something wrong, get tested,” Ferron appealed.
While she was unable to provide more data, Ferron said the evidence from surveys clearly shows a significant increase in STI infections among the 16-24 age group. The reason for this is because they are not adequately educated on STIs. They are not using condoms and are having more than one sexual partner, so the rate of infection is going up.
The AHF is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Monday to Friday, and Ferron is begging Jamaicans to access its services, which are all free and include their own laboratories, pharmacy, and doctors all under one roof.
According to her, the promiscuity being displayed reflects a casual approach to sex, with many persons in the age group not afraid of getting infected because they don’t see themselves at risk.
“They say okay it’s a one-time thing, so they take a chance and maybe that once is the chance that you might get HIV or you might get syphilis, and those can’t be cured. So it’s just a mindset thing and the societal influence on people’s mind. That is our biggest problem at this very moment,” she admitted.
Women are more likely to be more cautious and inclined to practise safe sex but are still at great risk since in many cases, they are one of many sexual partners for a man. He, in turn, is not likely to divulge the fact that he has many partners and could easily con each woman into have unprotected sex, secure in the false knowledge that she is the only partner.
“He might not know which of these women has an infection and he then unknowingly passes it to the others. So it makes sense for the woman to be vigilant and diligent at all times and insist that her partner practises safe sex at all times,” Ferron urged.
She stressed that AFS’ practises confidentiality, its office is never crowded and is very comfortable, and the staff is very friendly and accommodating. “We don’t share information with anyone about a patient. We would have to get written consent from that patient to share the information, so we are 100 per cent confidential.”
You may visit or call the office of the AHF from 9-4 each day from Monday to Friday or you can follow them on Facebook at facebook.com/AHFJamaica/