Call for action on common STI

A University of Hong Kong study has identified higher chlamydia prevalence among young people and middle-aged females.

Clinical associate professor William Wong Chi-wai said this sexually transmitted infection can be asymptomatic, especially in females, but may lead to serious health consequences such as infertility.

In the first local population-based sexually transmitted infections study, the university reached 881 people aged between 18 and 49 through random selection from households across Hong Kong.

Participants who completed a survey had their urine tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea. They were also given an optional syphilis test.

Results showed that 16 of them were positive for chlamydia, three for gonorrhea and one syphilis. This represents a 1.4 percent overall chlamydia prevalence, similar to Western countries.

The rate was highest among young people aged between 18 and 26 years old who had been sexually active in the previous year, with the infection found in 5.8 percent of women and 4.8 percent of men.

Wong, who led the study, said a U-shape prevalence was observed among women, with the rate decreasing for those aged between 27 and 39 and peaking again for the sexually active women aged from 40 to 49, at 4.1 percent.

That is because the younger generation is more open to sex, Wong suggested.

He also said: "It was speculated that many couples break up and seek new partners in their later life, resulting in more sexual partners and unprotected sex."

Higher rates were also recorded among those who live alone or who had traveled out of Hong Kong. Awareness on chlamydia infection has been low as 25 percent of men and 80 percent of women infected show no obvious symptoms, Wong said.

Symptoms for men include urethritis and gray frothy penile discharge. This is one of the reasons why the prevalence rate is lower in men as the obvious symptoms will lead them to visit a doctor.

As for women, Wong said the infection is mostly asymptomatic and takes months or years to develop into the serious complications of pelvic inflammatory disease that could lead to adhesion and infertility. Some may experience abdominal pain in later stages. Wong said the infertility is irreversible as the fallopian tube has been blocked.

Although about 90 percent of the chlamydia infections will recover even without intervention, Wong said routine screening for sexually active women and young people should be considered as diagnosis and treatment are easy.

Patients only have to take four antibiotics pills at a time and refrain from sex for about a week for the bacteria to clear, Wong said, but treatment will be much more complex after serious complications emerged.

He called for a cost-effectiveness study of chlamydia screening using different approaches and the government to strengthen education on such infection among high-risk groups.

Members of the public are also reminded of the importance of safe sex as a condom can help shield most sexually transmitted infections, Wong said.


Source from : The Standard


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