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A major hurdle in the elimination of urogenital schistosomiasis revealed: Identifying key gaps in knowledge and understanding of female genital schistosomiasis within communities and local health workers

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Kukula, Vida Ami, MacPherson, Eleanor, Tsey, Irene Honam, Stothard, Russell ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9370-3420, Theobald, Sally ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9053-211X and Gyapong, Margaret (2019) 'A major hurdle in the elimination of urogenital schistosomiasis revealed: Identifying key gaps in knowledge and understanding of female genital schistosomiasis within communities and local health workers'. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, Vol 13, Issue 3, e0007207.

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Abstract

Background: Urogenital schistosomiasis is endemic throughout Ghana with elevated infection levels in certain areas e.g. Lake Volta Region. While the primary focus of the national control program is on mass drug administration of praziquantel to school-aged children, Female Genital Schistosomiasis (FGS), a disease-specific affliction of girls and women, has been largely overlooked. To better focus future actions, our study investigated the perceptions, knowledge and understanding of FGS amongst community members and health providers.
Method/Principal findings: We used qualitative methods including 12 focus group discussions and 34 in-depth interviews. We purposively selected 16 communities along the Lake Volta in the Shai-Osudoku District. Participant selection was based on gender, age and occupation; providing an opportunity to explore community understanding of FGS through participants own words and perceptions. Awareness of schistosomiasis was reported and is commonly experienced among children (12–17 years) and younger adults (18–25 years) in the study communities but is typically considered a boy’s disease. Knowledge of FGS was lacking in women, girls and front-line health workers. There was a general misconception that FGS may be the result of sexual promiscuity. Adolescent girls reporting vaginal discharge and itching were often stigmatized by health workers and treated for sexually transmitted infections. Limited alternatives to the river as key source of water meant that all members of the community faced the regular risk of schistosomiasis.
Conclusion/Significance: There is a clear imperative for the national control program to better engage on FGS and implement interventions to meet girls and women’s needs. The key consideration is to integrate more adequately preventive services with sexual and reproductive primary health care with future training of health workers for improved management of FGS cases. More broadly, harmonizing the portfolio of all actions on FGS is needed, especially with a call for improved access to safe water and sanitation for all those at current or future risk.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: WA Public Health > WA 18 Education
WA Public Health > WA 30 Socioeconomic factors in public health (General)
WA Public Health > Health Problems of Special Population Groups > WA 309 Women's health
WA Public Health > Health Administration and Organization > WA 546 Local Health Administration. Community Health Services
WC Communicable Diseases > Tropical and Parasitic Diseases > WC 810 Schistosomiasis
WJ Urogenital System > WJ 20 Research (General)
Faculty: Department: Biological Sciences > Department of Tropical Disease Biology
Clinical Sciences & International Health > International Public Health Department
Digital Object Identifer (DOI): https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0007207
SWORD Depositor: JISC Pubrouter
Depositing User: Stacy Murtagh
Date Deposited: 22 Mar 2019 11:53
Last Modified: 22 Mar 2019 14:11
URI: https://archive.lstmed.ac.uk/id/eprint/10443

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