“Yes, next person,” A man in a white robe calls out from what looks like a cage. You don’t quite see his round spectacles from afar until you get closer.
“Put your card in the box over here and wait for me on the bench,” he says to almost every patient.
But today, I noticed the man in white, Mr. Richard Owusu-Ansah, ask two of them to wait elsewhere after taking their cards – he will be talking to them privately. The two patients Owusu-Ansah, a pharmacist at the University of Ghana students’ clinic, asked to wait need special attention; confidentiality, and counselling, because they have been infected with some sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Sexually transmitted infection cases have become the new emergency situation at the University of Ghana students’ clinic. A nurse at the clinic who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity because she hadn’t discussed it with her boss said aside from diet-related complications, the cases they receive have to do with sexually transmitted infections.
“We treat some students and the same people come again after two weeks with the same condition,” the nurse lamented. “Some of them go back to their partners again after treatment.”
Mr. Owusu-Ansah, said even though STIs are contracted through sex, students who visit the clinic with these cases attribute them to other things such as their washrooms.
“Sometimes when they come and you ask them whether they are sexually active, the say no because they are shy,” Mr. Owusu-Ansah said. “The only reason we want to know is because we have to treat their partners too but they will not tell us the truth.”
He also said some of the students who are honest enough to tell them how they got it usually cannot bring their partners because they have multiple sex partners and may not know which of them they contracted the infection from.
On average, about 10 STI cases are treated here every week, according to the clinic staff. Mr. Owusu-Ansah said they usually advise students who have been treated to protect themselves when they want to have sex.
“They are mature people, you can’t control them so the only thing is to counsel them,” he said.
Alarmed by the clinic’s STI statistics, Churchill Ashong, a level 400 Computer Science student who I spoke to for comments believes it will go high because most of the students, for fear of stigma, treat it at home.
“My friend had gonorrhea and always complained of pains when he was urinating but I didn’t hear him say he visited the clinic,” Ashong said.
The clinic currently works in partnership with the University’s Careers and Counselling Center to counsel students who have been infected, on effective ways to prevent subsequent infections.
WRITTEN BY: EUGENE NYARKO
(The writer is a student of the Department of Communication Studies, University of Ghana. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org)