Samoa Health Authorities Focus On Men’s Sexual Health

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Authorities to conduct screenings for STIs, HIV/AIDs

By Alan Ah Mu

APIA, Samoa (Talamua, May 6, 2013) – Under the theme "Men’s Health Is Wealth," Samoa’s Health Ministry today launched a nationwide screening of men aged 18 and over at Samoa Tourism Authority fale at Mulivai, Apia.

"It’s the first of its kind," said Aaone Tanumafili, Principal National HIV/AIDS Capacity Support Officer.

Whilst it’s a general checkup, Health is keen to see what the results throw up as to incidents of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS.

Data taken from pregnant women in 2005 revealed high incidences of STIs which alarmed the Ministry, especially when a follow up study done 2008 showed increases.

Infections cannot occur unless through sex with a partner so it is assumed incidences of such STIs in women would be the same amongst men.

No screening of men for STIs has been carried out before, said Ms. Tanumafili.

With funds from Secretariat of Pacific Community/Response Funds for STIs & HIV it became possible.

The town start of the screening effort aims at "the working men population," said Ms. Tanumafili.

Males are reluctant to undergo medical checkups and also face time constraints from work, she said.

Members of Parliament were amongst the first men to take up the call for checkups, with four known to have done so this morning.

Checkups are offered for free until Wednesday.

In this month, though the dates have yet to be pinpointed, screening will shift to district health centers in Upolu Island at Lalomanu, Poutasi and Leulumoega – then move to Savai’i Island to the centers at Foailalo, Safotu and Sataua.

Although Samoa is considered as a low prevalence country, however the dramatic increase of STIs in this reporting period is very significant to note. If this goes on untreated and unprevented, Samoa would most likely have a HIV/AIDS explosion in the near future.

It is feared that because of the "dramatic increase of STIs" there are implications for HIV/AIDS infection, namely a likely explosion in HIV in the near future unless the capacity to prevent them is strengthened.

That is contained in a progress report compiled by Ministry of Health for the January 2010 – December 2011 period on the status of the AIDS situation in Samoa.

For now Samoa is a "low HIV prevalence country" with a total 22 victims since the first known case was recorded in 1990, the report says.

But there is cause for alarm because of the prospect for HIV spreading if other sexually transmitted diseases are on the increase.

Says the report:

"The high presence and dramatically increasing rates of Chlamydia and its subsequent implications for the spread of HIV/AIDS is alarming, and highlights the need to improve STI diagnosis and treatment to strengthen surveillance of sexual behavior of the Samoan population.

"In particular, the high and rising prevalence rate of Chlamydia, (27.5% recorded in the 2008 according to the SGS report, 32.6%, and 31.3% recorded for all tests at the NHS (National Health Services) Laboratory for 2010 and 2011 respectively), a sexually transmitted infection (STI) which is endemic among pregnant women and their partners, is of major concern.

"Other survey findings further exacerbate this condition increasing the likelihood of new HIV infections, summarized below:

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