A medical expert, Professor Orikomaba Obunge, says that sexually transmitted infections (STIs) remain a big problem in Nigeria and some instance when left untreated can lead to long-term irreversible outcomes like cancer, infertility and blindness.
Obunge, a professor of medical microbiology at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, in a lecture titled: “The Past, Present and Future Management of Sexually Transmitted Infections in Nigeria” said more than one million cases of STIs are acquired every day globally, with the highest incidence in the age group, 15 to 24 years.
The lecture was in celebration of Professor Rasheed Bakare’s 70th Birthday and Retirement at the University College Hospital, Ibadan. Dignitaries in attendance, including Professor Oyewale Tomori; former Health Minister, Professor Isaac Adewole, Professor Tunde Bakare and Professor Babatunde Salako all described the celebrant as a seasoned teacher, iconic leader, astute administrator and unique personality.
According to him, in Nigeria, STIs continue to constitute significant medical, social and economic problems among both rural and urban dwellers with historically higher prevalence in different parts of the country.
While describing STIs as a hidden epidemic, he declared, “most of them cause only mild or no symptoms, so the infection often goes undetected. Adolescents and young adults are unable to access quality health care for STIs and live with the disease and can therefore spread the infection until complications arise.
“The poor healthcare-seeking behaviour of infected individuals leads to poorly treated STIs and the chain of transmission remains unimpaired resulting in the spread. Some fundamental societal problems like poverty, lack of education and social inequity indirectly increase the prevalence of STIs in certain populations.”
Obunge, however, said the challenge with STIs is not just to develop new interventions, but to identify barriers to the implementation of existing tools, and to devise strategies for ensuring that effective STI control programmes are implemented in the future.
On gonorrhoea, he said the high rate of usage, suboptimal control and monitoring of antimicrobial resistance and treatment failures and the extraordinary capacity of the gonococci, its superbug, to develop and retain antimicrobial resistance, stand to worsen gonorrhea cases as well as make the infection emerge as a silent epidemic in the future.
The don declared the need for urgent and immediate epidemiologic surveillance as well as laboratory capacity to rapidly detect and respond to reduce susceptibility and resistant gonorrhea in Nigeria even as Nigeria joins other countries in reporting its antimicrobial resistance to the WHO Gonococcal Antimicrobial Surveillance Programme.