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Sexually transmitted infections in Kenya

Sexually transmitted infections

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are spread through sexual activity including vaginal, anal and oral sex. They include syphilis, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, Herpes Simplex Virus, Human Immuno-deficiency virus, human papilloma virus (HPV), and herpes simplex. Most of these are caused by virus, bacteria, parasites and more.

Sexually transmitted infections

4 out of the 8 known STIs are treated using treatment procedures available in health centers, hospital and clinic all over Kenya and beyond. It is advisable to get tests and treatments early as they help you recover fast and avoid possible development of severe procedures. Find out more about sexually transmitted infections symptoms in male and female, treatments, and management procedures.

Key facts and scope about sexually transmitted infections in Kenya

According to WHO, 1 million STIs are transmitted every day. Majority of this population are asymptomatic. Besides, around 374 million new infections are diagnosed with 1 out of the 4 STIs which are curable. Estimated 500 million people between 15 to 49 years old suffer from herpes simplex virus or herpes one.

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is known to cause about 311,000 cervical cancer deaths annually. In 2016, 1 million pregnant women were infected with syphilis causing 350,000 adverse birth outcomes. Despite efforts on drug administration, rug resistance remains to be an impediment to the administration of STIs all over the world.

What causes STIs?

STI’s are caused by bacteria such as gonorrhea, Chlamydia, syphilis. Besides, viruses including Human papilloma virus, herpes virus, HIV, and hepatitis B trigger development of viral diseases. The known STI parasites are Trichomonas. Other are fungal infections.

Is an STI the same as an STD?

Yes. Sexually transmitted infections are also known as sexually transmitted diseases. The term STI is preferred currently as someone may actually be infected with the bacteria, virus or parasite without actually showing the disease. It mean showing symptoms of the disease.

How are STIs transmitted and how can I protect myself from getting an STI?

As the name suggests, sexually transmitted infections are infections that are transmitted through sexual contact. This may be vaginal, oral and even anal sex. However, some may be transmitted through contact with infected body fluid, iv drug users, transmitted during birth and breastfeeding.

Which are the most common STIs in Kenya (any reasons for their prevalence)?

The most common STI in Kenya would be Chlamydia. The prevalence of human papilloma virus infection is also increasing. Followed by bacterial vaginosis, gonorrhea, HIV.

How can I tell if I have an STI?

Well, presentations of STI usually vary between the causative agent and the gender of the person affected. Some STI’s is actually asymptomatic. Most commonly one can suspect if they have an STI if they have: –


  • Copious foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • Vulva and vaginal irritation/itch/burning
  • Pain when having sex
  • Spotting after having sex
  • Lesions or ulcers on the vagina and vulva


  • Urethral discharge
  • Painful urination
  • Lesions on the penis
  • Scrotal swelling

What are the most common symptoms of an STI?

Symptoms of STI are: –

  • Unusual discharge from the penis, vagina and anus
  • Rash
  • Pain when peeing
  • Bleeding on vagina
  • Itchy genitals or anus
  • Blisters
  • Warts
  • Skin growth around the anus

What are STIs health risks to men and women?

They are actually very serious conditions especially in terms of the long-term consequences. The most common is infertility for both males and females. They can also cause complications in pregnancy and even affect the baby. There is also risk of chronic pelvic pain, development of genital cancer development of chronic hepatitis, brain affliction with syphilis and death

What is the relation between STIs and HIV?

HIV is considered also to be a sexually transmitted infection. In actual fact one should be checked for HIV if diagnosed with a STI. What is being found in studies done is that: –

  • The risk of transmission of HIV is higher in someone who has STI and especially if they have lesions in the genital tract. There is increased infectiousness of the HIV virus and increased susceptibility of acquiring the STI/HIV.
  • Risk factors for acquiring STI’s, that is, multiple sexual partners, unprotected sex with multiple partners, are similar as those for HIV.

Can STIs be cured and what is the average cost of treating an STI?

Is the treatment of STI affordable? Most STI can be cured, that being said viral associated STI’s are usually harder to cure and actually can stay longer in the body though without showing symptoms. Herpes 2, and hepatitis B are known to have such tendencies. Average cost of treating the conditions would vary between Kshs. 500 – 2500. Compared to previous years it is definitely affordable, and the medication available is more effective than before.

Can one be screened for STIs?


How often should one get screened?

Well, the most important screening would be for the Human papilloma virus that causes cervical cancer. This is through yearly pap smears. The other would-be HIV testing. But otherwise, Velvet Clinic recommends that one can get checked for STI’s if one develops symptoms suggestive of STI’s as discussed above.

What kinds of tests are there and what do they entail?

Commonly there are the rapid vaginitis profile that checks for common vaginal infections, a high vaginal swab, both of which the specimen is taken from high up in the vagina, a pap smear, where a specimen is collected from the cervix. For men, there is the urethral swab, where a specimen is taken from the urethra. For the viral infections, the best would be through blood testing.

Where can one get screened and treated for STIs?

Do government hospital offer cheaper or free services? The major hospitals in the country should be able to do the above tests. My experience is with the Nairobi hospital where most of these tests can be carried out.  There are efforts in the country to improve services in government hospitals so that they may be able to offer tests like the pap smear. That being said, one can be treated for STI’s in most hospitals in the country.

Can I still have sex if I am infected with an STI?

It is advisable to not have sexual contact once diagnosed with an STI. It is recommended that one should be treated immediately and no sexual activity should happen whilst on treatment. The partner should also be involved in the treatment. Counseling is also important as again, STI’s are transmitted sexually and thus effort should be made to address the issues.

Frequently asked questions about sexually transmitted infections

What are the top 10 sexually transmitted infections?

They are bacterial vaginosis, chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Hepatitis, Herpes, HIV/ AIDs, Human Papilloma virus, Mycoplasma genitalium (Mgen), Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, and Trichomoniasis.

Does Velvet Health Clinic check the 7 most common STIs?

Yes, we do.

Sexually transmitted infections in Kenya are commons. You need to be careful to prevent the spread of the diseases. Visit Velvet Health for checkup.

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