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Friday, August 1st, 2014 - 3:38 AM
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Rangjung BHU bucks the dzongkhag’s downward trend

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But that maybe because the other gewogs are not as forthcoming about STIs

Sexually Transmitted Infections: Except for Rangjung basic health unit, cases of sexually transmitted infections (STI) cases across health centres in Trashigang have declined over the last few years.

Annual morbidity report with Trashigang general hospital shows a decline in STIs, including syphilis, gonorrhea, genital warts and chlamydia.

Last year, STIs, including gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia cases in the hospital, dropped to 68 from 100 in 2011, excluding HIV and viral hepatitis B.

Dzongkhag health office attributed the decline to improved access to health centres and safe sex. “Also, we presume from the increased use of condoms that more people are now having safe sex,” an official from DHO’s office said.

Rangjung BHU, however, has recorded 112 STI cases like gonorrhea, syphilis sporadically and vaginal discharge, genital ulcers and painful urination suggestive of transmission through sex since 2009.  But no human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has been detected.

“There has been a steady rise of STIs in Rangjung area, but not at an alarming rate to suspect HIV,” its medical officer Dr Dorji Tshering said.

The BHU caters to people of Radhi, Phongmey, Shongphu Merak, Sakteng and parts of Bidung gewogs.  Health officials attribute the rise in STI cases to changing attitude towards infection, with more people showing up for STI check ups.

STI cases in Rangjung BHU were reported among the unmarried, who had multiple sexual partners, while some were infected by their spouses.  All STI cases have been treated. “We’ve also traced and treated the partners,” Dr Dorji Tshering said.

BHUs in Merak and Sakteng have also not recorded any STI cases. “I haven’t come across any STI cases since I got here three years ago,” Merak’s health assistant, Kezang Lhamo, said.

That doesn’t, however, mean that the community is free of STI. “People aren’t forthcoming yet because of social stigma,” Sakteng BHU’s basic health worker, Karma Dawa, said.

“Even if they get infected, they get treated across the border in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh,” he said.

Health officials also said that its exposure to an increased flow of officials and expatriates makes Merak and Sakteng more vulnerable to infections. “Increasing number of people from the village working outside the community also increases the risk of infection,” Karma Dawa said.

In Lumang gewog, around three to four cases of STIs were reported in 2009, but since no new case was reported, the infection’s source was traced to an outsider.

Phegpari BHU in Thrimshing gewog saw two STI cases last year. “Locals travelling to work outside the village returned with the infection,” Phegpari BHU health assistant, Rinzin Chogyal, said.

Health workers said many people living with the infection are still not opening up for treatment. “I’ve been here for the last five years, and many infected might be avoiding medical attention because of our acquaintance,” Rinzin Chogyal said.

But it could also be that some might be getting treatment in other health centres, he said.  Health officials said living with an infection without treatment is unsafe for both the individual and others.

Without timely treatment, STIs like gonorrhea could be fatal, especially for those with weak immune system.

“If left untreated, the infection can spread all over the body through bloodstreams that could lead to serious complications,” Dr Dorji Tshering said.

Sometimes, it can cause kidney failure besides developing serious complications in the genital urinary tract.

STI complications in women can cause pelvic inflammatory diseases, infertility and cervical cancers and adverse pregnancy outcomes like miscarriage and stillbirth.  Infections in male could cause infertility like genital urinary system damage.

Health officials said vaginal discharge, painful urination, and genital warts are symptoms of STIs, and that those suffering from these should consult doctors at the earliest.

By Tempa Wangdi, Trashigang

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