Female Genital Schistosomiasis (FGS) popularly known as Bilharzia is one of the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) that has been eating into the gains that have been made in the health system. Statistics indicate that 261 million females of reproductive age are at a high risk of suffering the consequences of this parasitic infection. Studies show that even though FGS is highly prevalent in our populations, it is highly unsuspected and lowly diagnosed (Aesthetic Pittsburgh).
Studies reveal that FGS among other health risks, increases one’s vulnerability to contracting HIV and in most severe cases, can lead to infertility in women. This reality informed the need for LVC Health to conduct a study in Gembe Ward in Homa-Bay County to find out the causes for the prevalence of FGS in this region and integrate it with HIV/AIDS interventions.
Preliminary findings of the study reveal that poor hygiene and sanitation among other human activities that bring people into contact with contaminated water were the major facilitators of the transmission of Bilharzia. The study found out that a considerable section of the community still practice open defecation and urination due to few or lack of latrines. This creates a conducive atmosphere for the transmission of Bilharzia.
In an effort to disseminate the findings of the FGS/HIV integration study, co-develop draft intervention materials (draft training manual/module) and launch the intervention phase of the study, LVCT-Health conducted three days’ workshop with health care providers and community resource persons to help in breaking down some of the complex concepts at the community level.
Community resource persons including the Community Health Volunteers, Change Agents, and Mentors were trained on the facts about FGS – how it is transmitted, its signs and symptoms, and how to prevent it. After the training, they will sensitize the community around Gembe Ward on proper sanitation and how to avoid practices that bring them in contact with contaminated water inform them of health intervention whenever they experience symptoms associated to FGS. Some of these symptoms include vaginal discharge, bloody discharge, bleeding after intercourse, genital itching or burning sensation, pelvic pain during/after sexual intercourse and bloody urine. If not contained in good time FGS may lead to genital wounds/ulcers, miscarriage and in advanced cases, it may lead to infertility in women.
Resource persons going through the sensitization workshop on Bilharzia
Moving forward, LVCT Health will integrate FGS/HIV interventions into the DREAMS program targeting Adolescents, Girls and Young Women alongside other interventions that the program offers; Work with the relevant stakeholders to integrate the training manual/module into the curriculum that is taught in medical schools to enhance diagnosis at the health care facilities. LVCT Health will also scale the findings of this study to other places that may be considered endemic in the transmission of the disease as a way of fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS among other health consequences that are associated with FGS.
By Collins Kayubs