I learned a lot about sexual health during my placement at Limulunga from the wonderful medical staff. I was surprised during the family planning day and other visits in the outpatient department (similar to a walk in clinic/emergency department in these settings) how available and widely utilized birth control is for women. Perhaps this was naïve of me. Another sexual health intervention that is encouraged in Zambia for the prevention of HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) is male circumcision. Because hygiene can be an issue here, infection rates decrease with increasing rates of male circumcision because the infection does not have as many places to take up residence and proliferate, if that makes sense. This is not just for infants but for adult men as well. These circumcisions are conducted not only at the hospital but also at the more rural clinics. I feel like I should also mention that they do not use any anesthetic when they do this. Some medical professionals even go out into the villages to perform them. It is a very effective intervention here!
I was also surprised to hear about some of the common misconceptions around sexual health. For example some people believe that oral birth control/male circumcision will protect them from STI's (though this is not an uncommon belief at home), and some people are more concerned about preventing pregnancies than they are about preventing STI’s. Another is that gonorrhea is so common in some parts that some people think that symptoms such as purulent discharge and pain when you urinate is normal! Many of these notions are perpetuated as well because sexual health is a stigmatized topic that is not openly discussed.
Sexual health is obviously a complicated subject linked to many things such as education, hygiene, health, and personal and cultural beliefs.