Spike in STIs among Kenyan teenagers blamed on lockdown

By PAULINE KAIRU

A new report has highlighted a worrying increase in the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including chlamydia, gonorrhea and trichomoniasis, among adolescent girls in Kenya during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

Preliminary post-pandemic data collected in 2020 shows a dramatic increase in infections compared to 2019.

Surveys conducted as part of the ongoing study showed a 55% increase in bacterial vaginosis (BV) and a 34% increase in STIs. Although BV is an inflammatory condition caused by an overgrowth of certain bacteria naturally present in the vagina, it increases the risk of contracting an STI.

Bacterial vaginosis can occur in some cases without penetrative sexual activity. Its non-sexual risk factors include intravaginal and vaginal hygiene practices and smoking.

The report also showed significant co-infection, with 31% of girls with BV having an STI and 35% of girls with an STI also having BV.

Recent findings reported in the journal Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology on January 2 implicate post-Covid socio-economic factors, including high Covid-related stress, increased menstrual poverty and sexual activity.

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Forced sex

Scientists studying how stressors related to the pandemic have influenced sexual behavior and the risk of sexually transmitted infections among girls and young women in Kenya said: BV or STI, although 52% of girls with VB and 39% of girls with STIs reported never having had any type of sexual intercourse. »

Of the girls in the study, aged 16 on average, nearly a third or 30.2% said they had ever had sex and, of these, 54% said they had been forced or made to having sex.

Among sexually active girls, only 8.5% reported using a hormonal contraceptive for family planning.

The original study, which began in April 2018 by co-researcher Penelope Phillips-Howard of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, aimed to understand the impact of menstrual cups and the role of the vaginal microbiome in mitigating rates of bacterial vaginosis and STIs in the West. Kenya.

Sex swap

Research has shown that it is common for girls to engage in transactional sex to obtain basic necessities such as sanitary products, soap and underwear, and that young women between the ages of 15 and 19 years carry a disproportionate share of STIs.

A new phase of the study led by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago will seek to understand where Covid-19 closures and school closures have significantly affected the community and altered access and dependency girls to sex exchange for necessities, especially those that might have otherwise been available in schools.

The researchers received $2.6 million in research funding from the National Institutes of Health to dig deeper into how pandemic stressors influenced sexual behavior and STI risk.

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