Wednesday, June 29, 2022

‘Unknown’ sexually transmitted infections far more common in BME women, study finds

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An ‘unknown’ sexually transmitted infection is far more common among women from black and minority ethnic groups and disadvantaged communities, new research has found.

The study, conducted by Preventx, the UK’s largest provider of remote sexual health testing, warned that Trichomonas vaginalis often presents with no symptoms.

If the infection is left untreated, it can increase the likelihood of HIV infection and create problems for pregnant women, the researchers said.

The report found that five percent of black, black British, Caribbean or African women who experienced vaginal discharge — which is a key symptom of Trichomonas vaginalis — tested positive for the infection.

This compares to three percent of white women with positive vaginal discharge, while four percent of all women tested positive for the STI.

Preventx, which works with over 70 local NHS agencies, discovered the effects of Trichomonas vaginalis on more than twice as many asymptomatic women of black, black British, Caribbean or African background as asymptomatic white British women.

The study, the first of its kind, also found that Trichomonas vaginalis is more common than gonorrhea in heterosexual Britons.

dr Preventx Medical Director John White said: “Trichomoniasis is a relatively unknown sexually transmitted disease in the general population, but it can cause significant pain and discomfort.

“I know from the patients in my care that it can also cause a lot of emotional distress for the infected person. Women, in particular, can remain infected for years — and their distressing symptoms are often misdiagnosed or dismissed.

“Untreated, watching television can also increase the likelihood of contracting HIV in risk communities and cause complications in pregnancy.”

dr White, a sexual health and HIV consultant based in Northern Ireland, noted that the new data showed “worryingly high rates of positivity” but explained that the STI could be “easily diagnosed” with remote testing.

He added: “It is vital that more high quality Trichomonas vaginalis testing is carried out across the UK to help us understand more about the spread of this infection. This will allow us to address the consequences of undiagnosed Trichomonas vaginalis and reduce transmission.”

The report found that six percent of symptomatic women in the most disadvantaged quintile tested positive for Trichomonas vaginalis, significantly higher than the 1.4 percent positivity rate in the least disadvantaged quintile. Researchers analyzed data from 8,676 women from six different English local areas who undertook remote STI testing.

Trichomonas vaginalis can be easily treated with antibiotics, but subsequent testing is recommended to ensure the infection has gone. Researchers warned that high quality testing for Trichomonas vaginalis is not currently carried out as standard practice in the UK.

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