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No room for complacency in dealing with STIs in the Pacific

No room for complacency in dealing with STIs in the Pacific

1 December 2010, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) - More than 95 per cent of reported HIV cases in the Pacific are sexually transmitted, and while there has been a reversal of the trend in the HIV epidemic at the global level, the high prevalence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the region poses a real public health challenge.

Speaking to mark World AIDS Day, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) HIV & STI Section Manager, Dr Dennie Iniakwala said there should be no complacency when dealing with the prevalence of STIs in relation to HIV.

'STI prevalence in the region remains very high compared to other regions of the world, with one in four sexually active young people in the region infected with an STI. A new strategy and approach to address these alarming rates of STIs is crucial,' Dr Iniakwala said. He noted that often STIs do not present any symptoms.

'But if left untreated, STIs may lead to miscarriage and infertility in women, as well as eye and lung infections in newborns. The presence of STIs has also been shown to favour the transmission of HIV in both men and women,' Dr Iniakwala said.

In response to the challenges posed by the increasing prevalence of STIs, the Pacific Regional STI Working Group was established to review the situation and provide evidence-based recommendations to countries to help reduce the prevalence of STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis.

The working group comprises technical specialists from SPC, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Oceania Society for Sexual Health and HIV Medicine (OSSHHM).

'Some countries are adopting a recommendation that all antenatal women and their partners should be treated for chlamydia without being tested first. This "epidemiological treatment"- or presumptive treatment - of chlamydia is based on the established epidemiological pattern among antenatal women. Only a single dose of antibiotics is required,' Dr Iniakwala added.

World AIDS Day in the Pacific provides an opportunity to reflect on the epidemic of HIV and other STIs in the Pacific, and reiterates the notion that there is no room for complacency.

ENDS

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