Rising number of women with STIs needs to be tackled holistically, says Fatimah

Fatimah (fifth left) with organisers and participants giving their thumb’s up on the Self-Genius programme.

By Geryl Ogilvy

KUCHING, March 5: The growing number of housewives and mothers diagnosed with sexual transmitted infections (STIs) in the state signifies a worrying trend that needs to be tackled with a holistic approach.

Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Minister Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah said many of these women were diagnosed with STIs when taking their prenatal check ups.

She emphasised the need to carry out more awareness and educational programmes, as well as to reach out to individuals with suspected STIs to get them to seek medical treatment.

In addition, Fatimah noted the need to raise awareness on safe sex practices among married couples, especially if one of the partners has history of STIs.

“The question arises whether the affected women got infected before or during her marriage, or even through blood transfusion for HIV cases. Back then, statistics revealed that STIs mostly occurred to individuals involved in drugs.

“Now, more unsuspecting wives are affected and it should be encouraged for married couples to get diagnosed annually.

“We need a holistic approach by creating awareness and education on STIs and prevention, as well as promoting medical checkups,” she told reporters after closing the Sarawak Women and Family Department Self-Genius programme at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) today.

Fatimah (third right) poses in a “wefie” after the event. To her left is Sarawak Women and Family Department director Noriah Ahmad.

Fatimah felt that it was not right for the wife — in most cases they were the unsuspecting party — to contract STIs due to the sexual behaviour of their spouse.

Without revealing the number of those with STIs in Sarawak, the minister said between 2010 and 2018, surveillance data revealed those diagnosed with gonorrhea and syphilis had increased by an average of 11 and 20 per cent respectively. The majority of those infected with STIs are people in the 20-29 age group.

With regards to HIV cases in Sarawak, there were 255 reported cases in 2015, which increased to 390 in 2017.

Of the 390 cases two years ago, 354 were transmitted through sexual intercourse, two cases were of vertical infection from pregnant mothers to children, three cases involved drugs and the transmission method in 31 other cases could not be ascertained.

Fatimah called for individuals to get tested and seek treatment.

Touching on the Self-Genius programme, which attracted 345 participants comprising civil servants, parents, teachers and NGOs, she said the objective was to enhance confidence and self-esteem, as well as to help individuals dealing with negative thoughts and feelings. — DayakDaily