Do you think you
might have chlamydia? At MSH, we know it can be quite scary, but we also know
how to diagnose and treat it and will put your mind at ease. Here are some
answers to common questions about chlamydia:

What is chlamydia? 

Chlamydia is a bacterial infection caused by Chlamydia
Trachomatis. It is a sexually transmitted infection that can be passed on
through unprotected sex or sharing sex toys. Chlamydia can affect both men and
women and is transmitted through sexual contact with the vagina, penis, mouth
or anus of an infected partner. According to the World
Health Organisation (WHO), chlamydia is one of the most common
bacterial STIs in the world.

What are the symptoms of chlamydia?

The symptoms of chlamydia can be very obvious, but you can also
have no symptoms at all! This is the unsettling aspect about chlamydia – most
people who have it don’t even know that they have it! In most cases, there is
no way to know for sure unless you have a very specific test done. This means
that you can have chlamydia without knowing it.

In women, the bacteria initially causes infection of the
cervix (cervicitis) resulting in an abnormal
vaginal  discharge or bleeding
after sex. The infection can spread from the cervix to the upper genital tract
(uterus and fallopian tubes) causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Men
with chlamydia can present with urethritis (infection in their urine pipe),
causing a penile discharge or discomfort when passing urine.

Chlamydia can cause severe complications if left untreated. Read more about the complications of chlamydia here.

How do you test for chlamydia?

Chlamydia is tested by either taking a urine sample or a
swab. For urine testing a sample of your urine is sent to the laboratory to
check for the presence of chlamydia. Women can also be tested by taking a swab
from your vagina. For men, testing can also be done by inserting a very thin
swab into the penis to get a sample of the urethra. It is important not to rely
on blood tests for chlamydia since the results can be inconclusive.

We understand that it can be difficult to go for STI
testing. You are not the first and definitely not the last person that will be
tested for STIs at our clinic. We are here to support you.

How much does a chlamydia test cost in South Africa?

In South Africa, a chlamydia test can cost around R1400 in
private practice. The test that we suggest at MSH is a panel of tests for
infections that can cause the same symptoms. If you suspect that you might have
chlamydia, then you are also at risk of gonorrhoea, trichomoniasis, ureaplasma
and mycoplasma. That is why it is better to test for all the infections and not
just one. (The prices mentioned are approximate for April 2020.) 

When you see one of the MSH doctors, we will discuss your
full risk profile and probably suggest that you include a blood test for HIV,
syphilis and Hepatitis B too.

Because of the high
cost of the test, we often treat presumptively and according to the syndromic
management approach, like they do in government clinics. We believe there is
less harm in testing and treating you even though the tests may be expensive,
than leaving the chlamydia undiagnosed and untreated. Untreated chlamydia
results in serious complications and can spread to other people.

What is the treatment for chlamydia?

The treatment for chlamydia is one of two very specific
antibiotics. In the majority of cases taking a one-time dose of the antibiotic,
Azithromycin, should clear the infection. The other alternative is taking
Doxycycline for a week. It is very important that your partner also gets
treated to prevent the infection being passed back and forth. The symptoms from
the infection can take up to two weeks to go away after taking treatment and
your test might stay positive. It is best to abstain from sex or use protection
during that time.

How much does chlamydia treatment cost in South Africa?

Chlamydia treatment can be as cheap as R100! Don’t leave it
undiagnosed and untreated! These costs are an estimate and can vary depending
on the antibiotics prescribed. (The prices mentioned are approximate for April

Remember, at MSH we understand that it can be very scary to think that you may be infected with an STI. You may think that it is complicated to get tested and treated, but the doctors on the MSH team have helped thousands of people in your position. We offer screening of STIs at our branches in Bryanston (JHB), Pretoria and Cape Town. Click here for more information on STI screening.

Dr Jireh Serfontein

Dr Jireh Serfontein – Medical Doctor specialising in the field of sexual health medicine.
086 227 7718