A Nairobi doctor attends to over 30 cases daily involving sexually transmitted infections.
Dr Simon Kimaru, based in downtown Nairobi, says syphilis and gonorrhea are his specialty.
Gonorrhea is painful and can cause infertility in both men and women. This common bacterial infection is the second most common and fastest spreading STI worldwide.
Syphilis, on the other hand, has a prevalence rate of 1.8 per cent in the general population, but is higher among people infected with HIV.
“Most of my clients are men, very few women come here. I know these men have wives, and when they come for treatment, I wonder why they don’t bring their wives along” says Dr Kimaru in his two-roomed clinic on the first floor of an old building opposite Kenya Planters and Cooperative Union House.
Stairs to his office are steep and narrow. There are three men in the waiting area; one is furrowed in thought, while two have their heads buried in old newspapers.
“I set up this place after I retired, that was 13 years ago,” says Dr Kimaru, adding, “I mainly give injections here, it’s a one-minute affair.”
He approximates, amidst laughter, that he sees more than 2,500 males and female genitalia annually.
“I wanted to be a general practitioner, but because of my clinic’s location, people started coming to me with VD (venereal disease) cases, so I specialised in treating that.”
He explains that most of his clients are not necessarily poor.
“I charge from Sh3,000 for a single dose of VD treatment. I charge more for troublesome strains or cases that are advanced. I don’t think a poor person will pay such an amount.”
He says he has never met a man or woman who tries to bargain in his trade.
“They just come and pay without questioning,” says Dr Kimaru, who usually takes about five to 10 minutes with each patient.
The rest of the day is spent reading philosophy and history books inside the clinic, which surprisingly, has no name.
“Patients knew where to find me, since I had many repeat clients, but of late, many people I see are new faces,” says Dr Kimaru.
According to The UN World Health Organisation estimates, 2 million pregnant women each year are infected with syphilis globally. Of those, 1.2 million will transmit the infection to their newborns. Syphilis in pregnancy contribute to 650,000 foetal and neo-natal deaths each year in developing countries.
Ten high-burden countries, including Kenya, account for 40 per cent of pregnancies and newborns affected by syphilis.
“Once you have had sex, and you suspect you have the infection, don’t engage in any more sexual acts until the window period is over, and you are tested,” warns Dr. Maggie Awuor.
“STIs are very simple to test and treat, but the problem is that most people are either too scared or just don’t know they have the infection,” says the medic.
She adds: “If left untreated, gonorrhoea can cause infertility and acute pain in the testicles and prostate glands in men. It can also lead to blocked fallopian tubes, ectopic pregnancy or infertility in women.”