On eve of Christmas last year, James Munyakazi* (not real name) a taxi-moto operator in Kigali had managed to save Rwf50,000 for Christmas celebration.
With a group of four age-mate taxi moto riders, all below 30 years, he decided to go out for a beer drinking spree around the Remera taxi park in Kigali. Since it was his only day off, Munyakazi was ready to get wasted.
One, two three to more than seven Mutzig beers, he ordered as he enjoyed a clean cut piece of goat leg meat specially fried with Irish potatoes.
No sooner than he could recognize the group had changed their plans and went to a night dance within the same locality.
This day Munyakazi regrets being reckless with his life after entering the dance club in Remera.
“I was high by then and wanted to dance with a lady to make my evening complete,” he says.
“The next thing I remember is I was hooked up and ended up having sexual relation which started with protected but ended in unprotected sex,” Munyakazi says.
With no immediate idea or memory of what had happened, Munyakazi woke up the next morning at midday and had difficulties urinating.
“It was painful and I had developed a swell on my private parts. So I went to a nearby clinic and the diagnosis proved that I was infected with sexually transmitted infection (STI) – syphilis,” he narrates regretting his actions.
Luckily his disease was treatable and the clinician gave him a medicine prescription which he swallowed for a week and recovered but swore never to repeat the mistake of having unprotected sex again.
This is the same story for a sex worker, Jeannette Mukamana* who operates in the same area of Remera. She said that she behaves differently in front of clients in her catch.
“Depending on the amount of money the client is offering, I sometimes take the risk of having unprotected sex, but the good thing is that I always seek treatment at the nearest health center,” she said.
The world health organization WHO says that STIs have a profound impact on sexual and reproductive health.
WHO statistics (2019) show that more than 1 million STIs are acquired every day globally and each year, there are an estimated 376 million new infections with 1 of 4 STIs: chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and trichomoniasis, while more than 500 million people are estimated to have genital infection with herpes simplex virus (HSV).
In Rwanda figures by the Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC) show that in 2019 of the 6 million patients tested positive with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) at least 184,477 (3.3%) had STIs like gonorrhea, syphilis and Hepatitis B. .
Shockingly these statistics also show that in the first five months of 2020, which also includes the coronavirus lockdown period when citizens were immobile, 2.1million patients were tested for STDs and 77,226 (3.5%) of them had been infected with STIs.
For example in Kimisagara Health Center, statistics show in May alone they received 593 cases with issues of sexually transmitted infections, while in April they received 422, while in March they were 593. Most of these were grouped in the 25-35 age bracket.
Dr. Jean Damascene Makuza from RBC says that the increase is attributed to a problem of mindset among citizens, where most of them believe that such STIs are extinct and they cannot be infected with unprotected sex.