Zimbabwean Youth at Risk: 1 in 5 Infected With STIs - New Study Reveals[Image Credit: Chido Dziva Chikwari Facebook]

Zimbabwean Youth at Risk: 1 in 5 Infected With STIs – New Study Reveals

A recent population-based survey in Zimbabwe found 20% of Zimbabwean youth had curable STIs. The survey was conducted door-to-door in 16 communities across Harare province, Bulawayo, and Mashonaland East. The study was led by Dr Chido Dziva Chikwari, an epidemiologist and sexual reproductive health expert, and researchers from the Health Research Unit Zimbabwe and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicines from 2020 to 2022. Dr Chikwari warned of the high prevalence of STIs among Zimbabwe’s youth. The STIs discovered were Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Trichomonas, reported healthtimes.

Need for Diagnostic Testing

Dr Chikwari highlighted the need for diagnostic testing to be implemented in communities as most STIs are asymptomatic and go undetected. She recommended a move away from a syndromic approach. Syndromic approach is the one currently in use towards diagnostic testing. However, testing for most STIs is expensive and not attainable for most people in Zimbabwe. Diagnostic testing would improve the detection of STIs and subsequently reduce their prevalence.

Drug Resistance

Recent data reveals that Gonorrhea-causing bacteria, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, has developed resistance to available treatments in Zimbabwe. This leads to concerns about long-term health complications like infertility and stillbirths. Leading virologist Dr Francis Ndowa warned the drug resistance situation could cause permanent chronic infections and long-term complications. Patients may be forced to buy expensive antimicrobials to treat the STI.

In conclusion, the high prevalence of curable STIs among Zimbabwe’s youth is concerning. Diagnostic testing is necessary to improve detection and reduce prevalence. However, testing for most STIs is expensive and not accessible. Dr Francis Ndowa raised concerns about the long-term health implications of the drug resistance situation of Gonorrhea-causing bacteria. He warned that treating the STI might require expensive antimicrobials. Therefore, it is crucial to prioritize accessible testing and treatment options to address the STI epidemic among Zimbabwe‘s youth.