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Symptoms and complications of FGS

FGS occurs when the parasite eggs cause damage to the reproductive organs, which can result in gynaecological symptoms in women and adolescent girls, such as:

  • Vaginal discharge
  • Blood in urine
  • Abdominal and pelvic pain

If left untreated, women living with FGS can experience a range of complications, including:

  • Infertility
  • Abortion or ectopic pregnancy
  • Genital ulcers
  • Increased risk of HIV and human papillomavirus infections

Schistosomiasis and HIV

Farmer rinsing heads of salad in a water point located in her field in Grand-Zattry, Soubré District of Côte d’Ivoire. Image by: Unlimit Health/Aka Aboubakhr Thierry Kouamé

FGS causes open sores, inflammation and exposure to blood, giving easy access for any virus to enter the body. As a result, women and girls with FGS are up to three times more likely to acquire HIV.

Is FGS a sexually transmitted infection?

FGS is not a sexually transmitted infection. Although bloody urine is often the first sign of infection and is recognised in medical training, health professionals are often not familiar with FGS as it is typically not part of standard medical training.

How is FGS diagnosed

There is currently no recognised standard for diagnosing FGS. It remains underreported, misdiagnosed and largely untreated. This has serious consequences for women who not only suffer physical symptoms but also mental health problems due to stigma surrounding infertility and because symptoms are often confused with those of sexually transmitted infections. The World Health Organization’s pocket atlas has been developed to aid healthcare professionals with diagnosis of the disease.

Raising awareness of FGS

Female researcher in Madagascar. Image by: Unlimit Health /The END Fund

It is evident that there are many factors at play, but in order to prevent new cases and reduce the morbidity associated with FGS, appropriate training must be provided to healthcare professionals. Through early diagnosis and regular treatment of schistosomiasis, women and adolescent girls can effectively manage their symptoms, which in turn can lead to improvements in their quality of life. Increased awareness of the disease is critical so that communities understand the risks and impact that FGS can have on individuals, including the stigma that surrounds it.

How is Unlimit Health tackling FGS?

Unlimit health is working on various initiatives to tackle FGS, which you can find out more about below, and we have published a position paper.

Unlimit Health FGS
position paper

Unlimit Health’s position on FGS.

FGS Accelerated Scale Together (FAST) package

Improving adolescent girls’ and women’s health by reducing morbidity associated with FGS.

FGS prevention pilot - Côte D'Ivoire

Integrating preventive treatment for FGS into the national health system.

FIG (Female Genital Schistosomiasis Integration Group)

An innovative coalition of organisations galvanising joint action to tackle the neglected issue of FGS.

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