• Many people in Ghana do not know their STI status.
  • Those who do not know their STI status argue that they believe they look healthy enough.
  • But the health professionals have said that you must know your STI status especially if you have multiple sex partners.

Kofi Siaw is a Ghanaian millennial who believes that he must enjoy life to the fullest.

The 28-year-old explains enjoying life to mean “hanging out with friends, watching football, eating good food and having a partner who gives you great sex.”

One will wonder if Kofi Siaw does not think enjoying life means living in good health as well. Well, he believes healthy eating gives a healthy body.

According to Kofi Siaw, he started having sex at age 20. Meanwhile, he has been with about 5 girls at different times of his life. He also enjoys sex better when it is without a condom or any other form of protection. Siaw said that he hardly uses a condom. This means he has unprotected sex often.

Despite all these, he has never checked his STI status.

According to a medical doctor at St. Dominic Hospital, Akwatia, Dr Sharron Aglobitse, Siaw is not alone. A lot of Ghanaians do not know their STI status.

“You would be surprised that not a lot of people often check their STI status. There are still some Ghanaians who have never ever tested for any STI.” 

“Most of those who test usually do so because its mandatory by work or school etc,” she added.

A Medical Officer at the Greater Accra Regional Hospital, Emmanuel Seth Kojo Adu explained that “the most common reason for not being tested was that people felt they were unlikely to have been exposed to an STI.”

STI does not care

Dr Aglobitse also added that “some also believe a single episode of unprotected sex is not enough to acquire any STI. Others think there is no life after they test positive for STI especially HIV and that the prognosis (outcome) is an early death.”

However, Dr Adu explained further that you cannot tell who has contracted STI by the looks on their face.

But both doctors believe everybody must know their STI status. According to them, some early diagnosis can be treated while you would be put on some medication if it is an untreatable STI like HIV/AIDS.

Below are some reasons why you should test for STI.

STIs have a variety of different symptoms. Some of them are very obvious, but many of them are not. So you could have an STI and not know it. You can only know when you get tested.

Another reason the doctors gave was that your STI status will make you know if you need to seek medical treatment or not. 

Without testing, one can have long-term complications that can devastate your health and well-being if you have contracted any STI.

“It is also important to know your STI status so you do not put anyone else especially a sexual partner at risk,” Dr Adu added.

He added that if you are sexually active and have more than one partner, it is imperative that you get tested for STI. 

However, he indicated that one puts himself or herself at risk for transmission if one is having sex with more than one partner.

He was of the view that “the only way to be fair to people you have intercourse with is to know your STI status.”

As part of the reasons why Kofi Siaw has not tested, he said he did not want any health professional telling other people about his results.

But Dr Aglobitse said that it is important to test because some do not check their STI status because they fear the health professionals who will not disclose their status to anybody.

“Usually before testing for any STI, one undergoes some counseling... we usually explain what they are going to do and help alleviate their fears and answer their questions. We are professionals so we only disclose the test results to the patients.”

She added that “there is also a post-test counselling as well.”

The post-counselling period is to help patients who test positive access available help. Meanwhile, patients who test negative also need the post-test counselling because they need to be educated on how to protect themselves against STIs. 

Dr Aglobitse also added that the counselling sessions is to help demystify STIs and correct the myths surrounding the infections.

“There are a lot of public health units in various hospitals who are involved in the long term care (both physically and psychologically). There are also a lot of agencies involved in the care of especially HIV positive patients.”

Below are some key facts on STI from the World Health Organisation (WHO)

  • More than 1 million sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are acquired every day worldwide.
  • Each year, there are an estimated 357 million new infections with 1 of 4 STIs: chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, and trichomoniasis.
  • More than 500 million people are estimated to have genital infection with herpes simplex virus (HSV).
  • More than 290 million women have a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection (1).
  • The majority of STIs have no symptoms or only mild symptoms that may not be recognized as an STI.
  • STIs such as HSV type 2 and syphilis can increase the risk of HIV acquisition.
  • Over 900 000 pregnant women were infected with syphilis resulting in approximately 350 000 adverse birth outcomes including stillbirth in 2012 (2).
  • In some cases, STIs can have serious reproductive health consequences beyond the immediate impact of the infection itself (e.g., infertility or mother-to-child transmission)
  • Drug resistance, especially for gonorrhoea, is a major threat to reducing the impact of STIs worldwide.