Know your status on World AIDS Day

Commentary by Soli Wilson

 

With the World AIDS day happening tomorrow under the theme “Know Your Status”, this is the best time to shine the light on the status of the disease in Samoa.

According to the Samoa Global AIDS Monitoring Report 2018, Samoa is low on voluntary testing for sexually transmitted infection (S.T.I), low condom (protection) use and high chlamydia rates. 

“Currently there are 11 living cases of HIV. Though this is a low prevalence, low testing rates (4-5 per cent) indicate that there are many more cases likely undetected.” 

Though, we recently discovered there are two new HIV positive cases which make the cumulative cases 26 and living cases of HIV at 13; two of which are children.

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The report reveals there is low access to prevention materials and condoms. 

Men may be more vulnerable to HIV exposure than women due to their lower age of first sexual encounters (DHS 2014).

Apart from other STIs, chlamydia is a major problem in Samoa, occurring at a high prevalence in pregnant women, who are supposed to be low risk for the disease.

“The high prevalence of other STI’s (Chlamydia at 20.7 per cent in 2017), are also a concern and pose risks for increasing HIV transmission.”

Report shows that knowledge of chlamydia transmission and prevention is severely lacking in both general and key populations of Samoa.

“Less than 30 per cent of people knew that Chlamydia may show no symptoms in both men and women. Only 43 per cent knew that Chlamydia was curable, and only 50 per cent knew that wearing condoms prevents infection.

“Only 33 per cent knew Chlamydia could affect women’s fertility and only 27 per cent knew it could affect men’s fertility. Additionally, only 23 per cent knew that Chlamydia can cause eye infections if left untreated.”

Factors posing a challenge to addressing the issue include, stigma around prevention and treatment of STIs, low access to condoms, confidentiality concerns and stigma surrounding sexual health.

Ministry of Health programme activities aimed at tackling the issue is mainly implemented through the National Health Services and non-governmental stakeholders (NGOs) such as, Samoa Family Health Association (SFHA), Samoa Faafafine Association (SFA), Samoa Red Cross Society (SRCS), Teen Challenge Samoa and Young Women’s Christian Association Samoa (YWCA).

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