World AIDS Day 2019 Press Statement

World AIDS Day is a day to remember all those who have lost their lives to the illness. At the end of 2018, it is estimated that 32 million lives were lost worldwide to the disease. WHO had previously set the 90-90-90 target for countries in the world to achieve by 2020, 90% of those living with HIV will know their status, 90% of those who are positive are on ART treatment and 90% of those who are on treatment have undetectable levels of the virus. Let us take stock of what we have been able to achieve thus far.


Since then Singapore has risen to the challenge to achieve those goals.
 Singapore has done well with 2 of the goals – 89% of those who are positive are on ART treatment and 94% of those who are on treatment achieved undetectable viral loads. However, much has to be done to improve on getting those living with HIV to know their status as only about 72% are aware they are positive for HIV.
Thus we need to encourage more people who are at risk of HIV infection to get tested. At Dr Tan and Partners we have been strong advocates of screening of HIV and STIs for at risk persons and provide a non-judgmental and LGBT-friendly environment to discuss your concerns. This is to help to protect their families and their loved ones. It is not uncommon for people that I see in my practice to tell me one of the reasons why they are reluctant to get tested is because they are afraid of what will happen if their families or their loved ones find out.
The other common concern is that they will lose their jobs. Finally there are still many misconceptions about how HIV is transmitted. I have patients who are concerned that because they share food with their families they can transmit HIV to their family which is of course not true. HIV is NOT transmitted via casual contact like sharing of food and drinks or shaking hands.


Of note in Singapore as of 2018, of all those who were tested positive more LGBTs are stepping up to get voluntary testing for HIV (20%) compared to heterosexuals (9%). Also importantly, in all newly diagnosed HIV persons in Singapore both homosexuals (42%) and heterosexuals (43%) contribute equally to number of cases. What this shows is that contrary to what some believe, HIV is NOT a homosexual disease but it is a disease that affects all sexual orientation.
Finally, there is strong evidence from large studies involving thousands of sero-discordant couples (that is one partner is HIV positive and the other partner is HIV negative) who have sexual acts between 2007-2016 showed that there was not a single case of HIV transmission to the HIV negative partner if the HIV positive treated partner has undetectable levels of HIV virus. This highlights the importance of treatment of HIV, that treatment of HIV can be successful in achieving undetectable levels of virus and that transmission of HIV is effectively blocked when levels of the virus is undetectable.


We are proud that our Doctors at DTAP have been actively involved in the fight against the HIV epidemic. Our Anonymous HIV Testing site at Robertson Walk has provided a safe space for thousands of people seeking confidential HIV testing since 2005. Our Doctors were the lead and co-lead authors of the Community Workforce section in the Blueprint to end HIV transmission and AIDS in Singapore by 2030. Our Doctors were also part of the Singapore HIV PrEP Taskforce and helped write the first ever local Singapore guidelines for the clinical management of HIV PrEP.
We will continue this fight until we see a world free of stigma, free of discrimination and hopefully free of HIV.


Dr. Julian Ng

Dr Julian Ng has 10 years of medical practice experience. He currently serves as the Chief Medical Officer of the DTAP Group of clinics in Singapore and Malaysia. He is also a member of the Singapore Men’s Health Society. His special interests are in the field Andrology, especially sexual health. He is currently practising at Dr Tan and Partners (DTAP) clinic at Novena Medical Centre.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV): Risks, Symptoms & Treatment

What is Cytomegalovirus?

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is an extremely common virus which is part of the herpesvirus family. There are various different strains of CMV. CMV infection seldom causes any symptoms in healthy individuals. Infected individuals carry the virus lifelong but it remains suppressed by the immune system in healthy individuals and they have no long term health complications. 
However, CMV can cause symptoms and potentially dangerous, even life-threatening illness and complications in individuals with weakened immune systems, such as infants whose immune systems are not fully developed, or individuals on immunosuppressive or chemotherapy and individuals with poorly controlled HIV. 


How common is CMV?

According to the US Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, almost one third of children will be infected by CMV by age 5, and more than half of adults will have been infected by the time they reach age 40. 


How is CMV spread?

CMV is transmitted through body fluids like blood, semen, vaginal fluids, saliva, urine and breast milk. 
Transmission can occur when infected bodily fluid comes into contact with someone’s mucosa e.g. the eyes, lining of the mouth, or through sexual contact. An infected individual can transmit the virus during periods of activation- when it is not adequately suppressed by one’s immune system. Other modes of transmission include vertical transmission from mother to infant before or during birth, or through breastfeeding. One can also acquire CMV through blood transfusions or organ transplants. 


What are the symptoms and possible complications of CMV?

In most healthy individuals, CMV may not cause any symptoms at all. However, during the initial infection, some individuals may experience symptoms of fever, fatigue, myalgia (muscle ache), swollen lymph nodes and a sore throat. These symptoms are very similar to that of infectious mononucleosis or glandular fever. In healthy individuals, reactivation of the virus very rarely occurs as the immune system keeps it in check. 
In immunocompromised individuals, CMV can affect and cause symptoms involving various organs including the eye, liver (hepatitis), and the gastrointestinal tract (esophagus, stomach, intestines). 
CMV infection during pregnancy can lead to severe consequences for the unborn infant – infants who are infected during pregnancy (known as congenital CMV) may have problems affecting various organs including the brain, ears, liver, and lungs (see below for more on congenital CMV). 


What is congenital CMV? 

Congenital CMV occurs when CMV is transmitted from a pregnant mother to her unborn foetus during pregnancy. This can occur if a pregnant woman has a primary (new) CMV infection, or is reinfected with a new strain of CMV, or if she suffers a reactivation of a preexisting CMV infection. The risk of severe complications is highest if infection occurs during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Some of the effects of congenital CMV infection are apparent at birth. This includes possible jaundice, hepatosplenomegaly (enlargement of the liver and spleen), inflammation of the eye retina (retinitis), seizures, microcephaly (small head) and low birth weight. 
Some complications can be long term/life-long, including hearing and vision loss, intellectual disability and seizures. 


Who is at risk of CMV?

CMV can cause serious health problems in susceptible individuals: 
1) Infants who are infected during pregnancy (congenital CMV)
2) Infants born premature or with very low birth weight
3) Immunocompromised individuals e.g. organ transplant recipients or individuals with HIV. 


CMV and HIV

Not all individuals with HIV are at risk of CMV disease. Only individuals with a low CD4 (T cell – a form of immune cell) count are at risk. This usually occurs only if they are not on, or have failed to respond to antiretroviral therapy. Either re-infection with a new strain of CMV, or reactivation of an existing CMV infection can result in symptoms. 
The most common manifestation is CMV retinitis – inflammation of the retina of the eye, resulting in visual disturbances or visual loss. CMV can also cause inflammation of the esophagus (esophagitis), resulting in symptoms like pain on swallowing, and inflammation of the colon (colitis), causing diarrhoea, abdominal pain and weight loss. 
In rarer cases, CMV can affect the brain and nerves, causing symptoms like dementia, confusion, numbness and weakness. 


How does one test for CMV?

In symptomatic adults, antibody blood tests can be used to diagnose CMV infection. Other special tests may be necessary to determine organ involvement if there are symptoms to suggest this.
For infants with CMV, a urine or saliva sample is usually used to test for infection. Testing for congenital CMV has to be done within 3 weeks after birth. 


What is the treatment for CMV infection?

Healthy individuals with no symptoms do not require any treatment for CMV. However, in immunocompromised individuals who develop symptoms or in cases of congenital CMV infection, anti-viral medications can be used to treat and suppress the virus. In individuals with HIV, adherence to antiretroviral therapy and maintaining good CD4 counts is crucial. Treatment with anti-virals against CMV is not recommended unless there is evidence of CMV disease affecting an organ (end-organ disease). 
Speak to our doctors to find out more about Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and it’s available testing or treatment options.
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Common Causes Of Bumps & White Spots On Penis & Foreskin

This situation may be familiar to many men: while taking a shower one day, you happen to notice some white spots on your foreskin. You do a double take as you lean down to inspect your manhood. What could it be? How long have they been there? The questions are aplenty as you instinctively reach for your smartphone to begin a Google search.

There are many conditions that can cause white spots to develop on the penis and foreskin. Some men may be born with them, while others may develop them as a result of poor hygiene practices or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It is important to know what the white spots are due to, as not all conditions require treatment. Listed below are some common causes of white spots on the foreskin and penis.


Pearly Penile Papules

Pearly penile papules (PPP) are small, dome-shaped or projection-like bumps that are located just below the head of the penis, usually arranged in a neat row. They can be white, flesh-coloured, yellow or translucent in colour. They do not cause any pain or itch. PPP is considered as a normal variant of the male penile anatomy, and are harmless bumps. It is not cancerous and there is no cancer risk. It is not a sexually transmitted infection and is not contagious. It is common and can occur in up to 38% of young men up to age 25.

PPP can be left alone and does not require treatment. However, for men who find them unsightly, they can be removed. Treatment options include laser therapy, cryotherapy and electrosurgery. 

READ: What are Pearly Penile Papules?


Fordyce Spots

Also known as Fordyce glands, these are harmless, small white or yellow bumps that are found on the foreskin. They are basically enlarged sebaceous glands, and can occur alone or in clusters. They do not cause any pain or itch. Fordyce spots can also commonly occur on the edges of your lips or on the inside of your cheeks.

Just like PPP, Fordyce spots are not cancerous and infectious, and also does not require treatment. Similarly, they can be removed if men find them unsightly. Treatment options include topical retinoid cream, oral isotretinoin, laser therapy and electrosurgery. 


Tyson’s Glands

Also known as preputial glands, Tyson’s glands are modified sebaceous glands that are found on the inner surface of the foreskin. They occur in pairs and are located on either side of the frenulum. These glands are also present on the hood of the clitoris in females. Tyson’s glands are normal structures and do not require treatment.  


Skin Tags

Skin tags are small, soft, flesh-coloured growths on the skin. They usually have a stalk and hang off the skin, and can vary in size from a few millimetres up to several centimetres. They tend not to grow on the penis itself, but rather, around the groin and scrotum. They often grow in areas where the skin folds and rubs against itself, and as such they are often also found on the neck, armpits, eyelids and under the breast. They affect men and women equally. Obesity, diabetes and pregnancy can increase the chances of occurrence.

Skin tags are benign tumours of the skin and do not require treatment. Occasionally, they may fall off on their own. People often wish to get them removed for aesthetic reasons, or if the skin tags are large and get in the way. Treatment options include cryosurgery, electrosurgery, ligation and excision.  

READ: Skin


Balanitis

Balanitis is inflammation of the foreskin and head of the penis. Spots can appear on the penile head or foreskin, and can be white or reddish. Other symptoms include redness, pain, itching, discharge, swelling and difficulty with retraction of the foreskin, and sometimes pain when passing urine. 

Balanitis can affect as many as 1 in 10 males, and can occur at any age. It is more likely to occur in uncircumcised men. The most common cause of Balanitis is a bacteria or fungal infection, or a combination of both. This can result from inadequate personal hygiene and/or phimosis (tight foreskin). There are non-infectious causes for balanitis as well. Risk factors for recurrent balanitis include diabetes, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. 

To investigate balanitis, your doctor may perform swab tests to identify the responsible organism. Treatment involves topical and/or oral anti-fungal and antibiotics. The long term solution to balanitis is a circumcision.

READ: Causes, symptoms and treatment of Balanitis.

Pimples

Pimples develop as a result of the pores of our skin being blocked by dead skin cells, sebum and other debris. The sebaceous gland continues to produce sebum and build up under the blockage, allowing bacteria to grow in the area, resulting in inflammation, infection and pain. They can occur anywhere on the body, including the penis.

Pimples can be left alone and usually resolve on their own without treatment. It is important to resist the urge to pop the pimples as this may lead to superimposed infection, scarring and hyperpigmentation. However, they may end up self erupting and discharge small amounts of pus. Treatments for pimples include topical over-the-counter creams such as benzoyl peroxide, antibiotic creams and, if more severe, oral antibiotics.

READ: Skin


Folliculitis

Folliculitis is an inflammation or infection of the hair follicles. It can occur anywhere on the body, including the penis, where it is frequently seen at the shaft or base of the penis, or the pubic area. Folliculitis tends to result from shaving, waxing or chafing of the hair follicles. The damage to the hair follicles allows bacteria to enter. Sometimes, ingrown hairs can also occur from hair removal treatments, eventually leading to folliculitis as well. Folliculitis can be painful and/or itchy. Treatment options include topical and/or oral antibiotics. 

READ: Common causes of penile itching and pubic itching


Genital Warts

Genital warts are caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection and can be spread via vaginal, oral or anal sex. They appear as flesh-coloured growths over the genitals that can cluster and resemble a cauliflower. Most of the time they do not have any symptoms but can sometimes itch. Bleeding can also occur during sexual intercourse. 

READ: Causes, symptoms and treatment for Genital Warts
READ: How to get rid of Genital Warts

Left alone, the warts can remain the same or increase in size and number. They will disappear once the body has shed the virus completely, typically over a course of 1 to 2 years. Treatment options include topical medications such as imiquimod, cryotherapy and electrosurgery. Vaccines are available to help prevent HPV infection, consider getting a HPV vaccination. 

READ: HPV Vaccination For Men
READ: Rapid HPV Testing

Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) and is a sexually transmitted infection. Itching of the penis is usually the first symptom, and can occur in other areas such as the scrotum, groin, buttocks and anus. Shortly after, tiny clusters of painful blisters develop, which can then rupture and form shallow ulcers with crusts. Other symptoms include painful urination, enlarged groin lymph nodes, fever and body aches. The virus can lie dormant in the body for years without causing any symptoms, therefore some people may not even be aware that they are infected. 

Genital herpes can be diagnosed via swab testing of the lesions. When there are no symptoms, no treatment is required. Flares can be treated with oral and topical antiviral medications. There is unfortunately no cure for genital herpes, as the virus will permanently remain in the body.

READ: Rapid Herpes Testing

Molluscum Contagiosum

This is a benign infection of the skin caused by the Molluscum Contagiosum virus, resulting in painless, small, shiny pearl-shaped lesions. They can happen anywhere on the body as a result of physical contact, but when they occur on the genital area, it is usually as a result of sexual contact. The virus is thus spread via sexual contact, or even to another part of the person’s own body, from scratching the lesions and touching another part of the body. They can appear alone, or in clusters. They usually do not cause any symptoms, but can sometimes itch. 

Left alone, the lesions will eventually disappear once the body has shed the virus completely, typically over a course of several months to a year. Treatment options include topical medications such as salicylic acid, cryotherapy, laser therapy and curettage.

READ: Everything you need to know about Molluscum Contagiosum

In conclusion, do not panic if you notice white spots on your penis, as not all white spots require treatment.  Speak to your doctor for advice on white spots or bumps and request for an examination. 

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Condyloma Lata vs Condyloma Acuminata

Condyloma

Condyloma refers to wart-like skin growths – usually in the genital, anal, or oral regions but occasionally found in other areas of the body – that are caused by a sexually transmitted infection. The most common type is known as genital warts and is termed condyloma acuminata.

These are caused by an infection with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), the same group of viruses that can lead to cervical cancer as well as other oral and anogenital cancers. The prevalence of genital warts in the general population is estimated to be around 3-5%, making it the most common STD globally. See: 

Read: Rapid HPV Testing (Next Day Results)
Read:
Anal Pap Smear


Condyloma Acuminata On The Penis

When condyloma acuminata are detected, we must always look for and differentiate these lesions from condyloma lata, which are caused by secondary syphilis infection. These two types of condyloma can appear extremely similar and are easily mistaken for the other.

They may also both be present as a co-infection, seeing as they share common risk factors. It is essential that syphilis infection is considered and tested for when condyloma lesions are found, so that rapid diagnosis, treatment, and partner tracing can be performed. 

Condyloma lata

Condyloma lata of secondary syphilis tend to be slightly larger and more moist than common genital warts, and may even ulcerate in later stages. They are usually found in the anogenital or oral regions, but can also be found sometimes on the palms or soles of the feet. Other signs of syphilis may be a diffuse body rash or a classic painless sore or chancre (seen in earlier stages of primary syphilis).

Both types of condyloma are mainly transmitted through penetrative anal or vaginal sex, as well as oral sex (fellatio and cunnilungus). However, as they can be spread with direct contact with mucosa and/or broken skin, there have even been cases of transmission through mutual masturbation.

If you or your partner noticed any suspicious skin lesions, please visit our doctors for a full consultation and assessment. 

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Also STD & HIV Related Read:

Everything You Need to Know About Molluscum Contagiosum

What is molluscum contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum is a fairly common skin infection or condition caused by a virus called Molluscum contagiosum, a type of poxvirus. It manifests as raised, pearly, flesh or skin coloured bumps which may sometimes have a central dimple (known as “central umbilication”).  

How does molluscum contagiosum spread?

Molluscum contagiosum is spread through skin contact with the virus. 
This can occur if you come into direct contact with someone else’s molluscum lesions, be it through sexual contact, or during contact sports like wrestling.


Unfortunately, the virus can survive on surfaces outside the body and can remain on infected surfaces like clothing, towels, gym equipment etc. Someone else who then comes into contact with these surfaces can get infected. 


In someone who is already infected, scratching or touching the lesions and then touching other parts of their body can result in the virus spreading. Shaving over infected skin can also spread the virus and worsen the infection. 


Once lesions resolve, an infected individual is no longer contagious. 

Who is affected by molluscum contagiosum?

Both children and adults alike can be infected by the virus. It is common amongst young children who may spread the virus through playing with each other. Lesions may occur anywhere – on the trunk, limbs, armpits, neck and possibly even face.


In adults, it is more commonly spread through sexual contact and may be considered an STD. The resultant lesions occur anywhere on the lower abdominal wall to the external genitalia and perineum. 


Individuals with weakened immune systems e.g. cancer patients or immunosuppressed patients, or individuals with skin conditions like eczema are at higher risk of being infected. 

What are the symptoms of molluscum contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum gives rise to shiny, pearly, skin coloured bumps which may range in number from few to many. These can occur anywhere on the body depending on where the virus inoculates the skin. These bumps are painless and can range in size from barely visible to several millimeters in size or larger. When lesions are larger, you may be able to notice a central dimple. 


In individuals with weakened immune system, lesions may be far more widespread e.g. >100 lesions.


Symptoms usually surface between 2 weeks to 2 months from initial infection, but can be delayed for up to half a year even. 

What are the complications of molluscum contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum is a benign and self-limiting condition. However, scratching lesions can result in scarring or secondary bacterial skin infections.

How is molluscum contagiosum diagnosed?

Molluscum contagiosum is diagnosed clinically i.e. by identification of the classic pearly skin bumps. If the lesions look atypical, a skin scraping of a bump may be useful – examination under a microscope will reveal “molluscum bodies” which confirms the diagnosis, but this is not routinely performed in most patients. 

How is molluscum contagiosum treated?

Treatment of molluscum contagiosum is not always necessary as the condition is self-limiting and lesions will eventually resolve by themselves without scarring. Most lesions will resolve within a year but can take longer than that. 
Treatment is recommended for:

  • Lesions around the genital or perianal region
  • If lesions are large 
  • In immunocompromised individuals with extensive lesions 

Various treatment methods available include:

  • Physical removal of lesions – with laser removal or cryotherapy (freezing with liquid nitrogen)
  • Topical creams or ointments e.g. podophyllotoxin application, imiquimod cream – but the efficacy of topical treatment may vary 
  • In immunocompromised individuals, usual treatment methods may fail and specific, special treatment (e.g. intralesional interferon) may be required 

How do I minimize my risk of getting molluscum contagiosum?

Good hygiene habits are crucial to minimize your risk of molluscum – regular hand washing, not sharing towels or sports equipment, wiping down equipment at the gym before usage, or covering equipment with your own towel rather than sitting or lying directly on it. Do not share razors or personal items. 


Avoid touching lesions if you are infected. Do not scratch, pick, or attempt to pop lesions. Shaving should also be avoided. Molluscum lesions should ideally be covered e.g. with a plaster to reduce the risk of transmission. 


Adults with lesions around their genital or perianal region should also avoid sexual contact until these have been treated. 


If you are concerned about any skin lumps or bumps and think you may have molluscum contagiosum, it is best to hold off attempting to treat it yourself (this may worsen the infection!) and see a doctor as soon as possible.


If you would like to find out more about molluscum contagiosum come down to any of our clinics for a consultation.

A Case of HIV from Vampire Facial

Our clinics recently diagnosed a case of HIV from a vampire facial.
A Vampire Facial is a type of cosmetic treatment that was made popular by celebrity Kim Kardashian.
The treatment involves taking the patient’s own blood and spinning it down until the cells separate out of the liquid portion (plasma). Small needles known as micro-needles are then used to make multiple small holes in the patient’s face. The plasma is then poured over the face so that it soaks into these holes.
Two cases of HIV infection from such treatments were reported earlier this year in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the US. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/912436
Vampire Facial treatment is NOT approved in Singapore.

What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?

Before undergoing a treatment, ensure that the establishment has all the proper local licenses required.
Ensure that the therapist conducting the treatment has all the training certifications required.
Do not undergo any treatments in non-medically licensed establishments that involves blood or body fluids.
For treatments that involve puncturing or breaking the skin, ensure that the instruments used are properly packaged and sterilized. 
Insist on seeing the operator open the sealed package in front of you.

If you feel you might have been exposed to an infection, see your local Doctor immediately for a discussion on HIV PEP and screening for other blood-borne infections like Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.


Learn More about Other STDs & Other STD Symptoms

Chancroid Symptoms & Treatment

What is Chancroid?

Chancroid is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacterium Haemophilus ducreyi. It is a highly contagious but curable disease. 
Chancroid was once highly prevalent worldwide, but thanks to increased social awareness leading to better sexual practices, along with improved diagnosis and treatment options, it is nowadays rarely seen in industrialized countries. However, it still occurs frequently in underdeveloped areas, including certain parts of Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. It is most prevalent in lower socioeconomic groups, and is associated with commercial sex workers.

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms typically begin 4 to 10 days after sexual exposure. Patients usually develop a small, red pustule on the genitals that breaks down within a day or two to form a painful, soft ulcer with irregular borders.
About half of infected males develop a solitary ulcer whereas women usually develop 4 or more ulcers. In males, the ulcer can be located anywhere on the genitals, including the penis and scrotum. In females, the ulcers can occur on the labia, between the labia and anus, and along the inner thigh. 
Lymph node swelling in the groin may accompany shortly thereafter, and these may break through the skin and form large draining abscesses (collections of pus). These swollen lymph nodes and abscesses are referred to as buboes. With lymph node involvement, fever, chills and malaise (general feeling of illness) may also develop.
Other symptoms of Chancroid include rectal bleeding, pain with bowel movements, vaginal discharge, painful urination (women) and pain during sexual intercourse (women).

Is Chancroid associated with other subtypes of genital ulcer diseases that include other STDs, such as HSV-2, syphilis, and LGV?

Chancroid is one of the causes of genital ulcer diseases, which includes Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) Type 2, Syphilis and Lymphogranuloma Venereum (LGV). There is no direct association, but any form of STD can increase your risk of contracting another STD, including Chancroid.
Genital ulcer diseases are concerning as their presence greatly increases the risk of HIV transmission, with a report from the World Health Organization (WHO) estimating that the presence of genital ulcer diseases increases the risk of HIV transmission by 10%-50% in women and 50%-300% in men.

How do I test for Chancroid?

Currently there is no laboratory test that is able to immediately confirm the diagnosis of Chancroid. Haemophilus ducreyi can be isolated on a special culture media, but this is not readily available in many centres. Moreover, this technique has a sensitivity of <80%.
Diagnosis therefore is made based on clinical judgement. According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a probable diagnosis can be made if: 

  1. There is presence of one or more painful genital ulcers
  2. The presentation and appearance of the genital ulcers and, if present, enlarged groin lymph nodes are typical for Chancroid
  3. There is no evidence of syphilis infection on testing of the ulcer, or from blood test performed at least 7 days after onset of ulcers
  4. Swab testing of the ulcer for Herpes Simplex Virus is negative

What is the treatment for Chancroid?

Appropriate treatment of Chancroid cures the infection, reduces the complications, and prevents transmission. Treatment should be started as soon as a diagnosis of Chancroid is suspected due to the lack of appropriate fast and accurate laboratory testing.
The key treatment for Chancroid involves the use of antibiotics. Antibiotics may also help decrease the chance of scarring as the ulcer heals. Your doctor will choose the appropriate antibiotic for you. 
If buboes are present, they should be drained with either needle aspiration or surgery, in order to reduce swelling and pain. Sexual partners of patients with Chancroid should be informed to get examined and treated regardless of whether they have symptoms or not, if there was sexual contact within 10 days preceding the onset of symptoms.
If you would like to find out more about Chancroid, come down to any of our clinics for a consultation.
Stay safe, stay healthy.


Learn More about Other STDs & Other STD Symptoms


What YOU Need To Know About Hepatitis C

What is Hepatitis C?

“Hepatitis” means liver inflammation. Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus, a highly infectious, bloodborne virus. It can cause both acute (short term) and chronic (long term, persistent) liver inflammation which can range from very mild with no symptoms to severe and life/organ threatening. 
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 71 million people worldwide have chronic hepatitis C. In Singapore, the prevalence of hepatitis C is about 0.2% of the population. 50% of individuals with hepatitis C are unaware that they are infected because they have no symptoms. 
Most infected individuals (more than 70%) end up with chronic hepatitis C. Hepatitis C can result in chronic liver inflammation and eventual liver failure and is also a major risk factor for liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma). 
Thankfully, anti-viral medications are very effective in curing hepatitis C (a more than 95% cure rate). Early diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis C is crucial to avoid the potentially liver and life-threatening complications that can result from chronic hepatitis C. 

What is the difference between Hepatitis A, B and C?

Hepatitis A, B and C are all viruses which cause liver inflammation. However, they differ in terms of their modes of transmission and impact on the liver. 
Hepatitis A is transmitted through ingestion of contaminated food, water products or oro-fecally from an infected individual. Symptoms of hepatitis A tend to surface 2-4 weeks after initial infection and include fever, nausea/vomiting and diarrhoea, jaundice (yellowing of the skin) and tea coloured urine. Hepatitis A does NOT cause chronic liver inflammation – while there is a rare risk of fulminant acute hepatitis (severe, potentially life-threatening liver inflammation), most individuals recover completely from hepatitis A and have lifelong immunity. 
Hepatitis B is a bloodborne virus which is transmitted through sexual intercourse, blood transfusions, needle sharing, or through vertical transmission i.e. from mother to child during childbirth. Like hepatitis C, it causes both acute and chronic liver inflammation. Chronic hepatitis B infection can also result in liver damage (liver cirrhosis), failure and liver cancer. 

How is Hepatitis C transmitted?

Hepatitis C is a bloodborne virus and can be transmitted through:

  • Sharing of contaminated needles, syringes or related equipment 
  • Blood transfusions
  • Tattoos or body piercings in parlours that do not observe proper sanitation protocols 
  • Sexual intercourse with an infected individual – the risk of transmission through sexual contact is considered low but increases if one has multiple sexual partners
  • Sharing of personal care items that come into contact with infected blood e.g. razors 
  • Vertical transmission from mother to child during childbirth

The hepatitis C virus can survive and remain infectious outside the body for up to 6 weeks, which implies transmission through contaminated equipment is a real risk. 

What are the different stages of hepatitis C infection and their associated symptoms?

Acute hepatitis C

  • Symptoms may begin 2 weeks to several months after initial infection
  • Most individuals may not have any symptoms whatsoever but if a liver function test is done, it may show evidence of liver inflammation (elevated liver enzymes) 
  • Individuals who do develop symptoms may experience fever, fatigue, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), tea-coloured urine, nausea, right sided abdominal pain, joint pains 

Chronic hepatitis C

  • In 75-85% of infected individuals, the hepatitis C infection persists long term
  • Most individuals with chronic hepatitis C do not have symptoms but liver function blood tests may show evidence of ongoing liver inflammation
  • About 10-20% of individuals with chronic hepatitis C will develop liver cirrhosis (scarring of the liver with possible impaired liver function)
  • Individuals with cirrhosis may not show any symptoms until advanced stages of cirrhosis 
  • Individuals with hepatitis C and cirrhosis are at increased risk of liver failure and liver cancer

It is important to note that a lot of infected individuals have NO SYMPTOMS during both the acute infection and chronic phase. 

How is a hepatitis C infection diagnosed?

Hepatitis C infection is diagnosed through blood tests – the initial test done is usually a screening test for antibodies against hepatitis C. Further confirmatory tests like hepatitis C RNA testing will be done if you test positive for hepatitis C antibodies.
The hepatitis C antibody test can detect hepatitis C infection from 4 weeks after initial infection. 
Other blood tests like the liver function test and possibly imaging studies like an ultrasound scan of the liver will also be useful in determining the severity and possible complications of hepatitis C. 

What is the treatment for hepatitis C? 

Treatment of hepatitis C is only offered for chronic hepatitis C. The good news is that the current anti-viral treatment options for hepatitis C have a high cure rate of >90%. 
Infected individuals will also need regular follow-ups to monitor for liver inflammation and complications like liver cirrhosis and cancer. They should also abstain from alcohol or anything that may worsen liver inflammation and damage. 

Is there any vaccine against hepatitis C?

There is unfortunately no vaccine available for hepatitis C. The only hepatitis virus vaccines available are against hepatitis A and B. 

Who is at increased risk of hepatitis C?

Certain groups of people may be at increased risk of hepatitis C. These include:

  • Individuals who abuse drugs (inject/snort etc)
  • Individuals who engage in sexual activity that poses an increased risk of exposure to blood e.g. anal intercourse 
  • Individuals with partners who have hepatitis C 
  • Individuals with HIV 
  • Individuals who are or were previously incarcerated 
  • Children of mothers with hepatitis C 

What do I need to know about Hepatitis C and HIV coinfection?

All individuals diagnosed with hepatitis C should also be screened for HIV (and vice versa). Individuals with both hepatitis C and HIV (known as co-infection) are at increased (3x) risk of liver-related complications and overall mortality. This is even with aggressive anti-retroviral treatment to control HIV.
Overall, the outcomes for individuals with HIV and hepatitis C co-infection are poorer than individuals with either hepatitis C or HIV alone.  Treatment of individuals with HIV/hepatitis C co-infection can be complex and challenging as there are also special considerations when it comes to the choice of medications for treatment in individuals with co-infection, because of concerns about drug interactions. 
 
In conclusion, Hepatitis C is a SILENT and often overlooked infection. Regular screening for hepatitis C (be it as part of your routine health screening or sexual health screening) is crucial for early detection and treatment. The complications of untreated hepatitis C are potentially severe and life threatening but can easily be avoided with appropriate treatment.


Learn More about Other STDs & Other STD Symptoms

 
Also on DTAP: hiv screening, hiv screening singapore

16 Frequently Asked Questions About Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is the most common human hepatitis virus in Singapore. 
Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver caused by a virus called Hepatitis B virus. It can cause an acute infection which sometimes results in the person becoming a carrier (ie. Persistent infection).  Locally, 6% of the Singapore population are hepatitis B carriers. Those who test positive for hepatitis B for more than 6 months after the first test, are diagnosed as chronic. Having chronic hepatitis B increases your risk of developing liver failure, liver cancer or cirrhosis — a condition that permanently scars of the liver.
A vaccine can prevent hepatitis B, but there’s no cure if you have the condition. If you’re infected, taking certain precautions can help prevent spreading the virus to others.

1. Factors that have led Hepatitis B to become one of the biggest health threats in the Asia-Pacific region?

There are approximately 300 million chronic HBV carriers in the world, of whom 75% are found in the Asia Pacific region. Up to 50% of people who are newly infected have no symptoms. As the infection can lead to a chronic infection where majority of them have no symptoms, they are unaware that they are carriers and there can easily pass it to their partners and from mothers to their unborn child.

2. How does one get infected with Hepatitis B?

  • Sex with an infected partner
  • Injection drug use that involves sharing needles, syringes, or drug-preparation equipment
  • Birth from an infected mother
  • Contact with blood or open sores of an infected person
  • Needle sticks or sharp instrument exposures
  • Sharing items such as razors or toothbrushes with an infected person

Hepatitis B (HBV) does not spread through the sharing of food, water, utensils, breastfeeding, hugging, kissing, hand holding, coughing, or sneezing.

3. What are the symptoms of a Hepatitis B infection?

Newly acquired (acute) Hepatitis B (HBV) infections symptoms arise occasionally. The presence of signs and symptoms varies by age. Most children under age 5 years and newly infected immunosuppressed adults are generally asymptomatic, whereas 30%–50% of persons aged ≥5 years have signs and symptoms.
Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Clay-colored bowel movements
  • Joint pain
  • Jaundice

Some acute HBV infections will resolve on their own, but some will develop into a chronic infection. Most people with a chronic HBV infection are asymptomatic and have no evidence of liver disease.
Approximately 90% of infants and 25%–50% of children aged 1–5 years will remain chronically infected with HBV. By contrast, approximately 95% of adults recover completely from HBV infection and do not become chronically infected.

4. How long does it take for the symptoms of Hepatitis B to show?

The symptoms appear an average of 90 days (range: 60–150 days) after exposure to HBV. If they develop yellowing of the whites of the eye, yellowing of the skin with vomiting, abdominal pain and drowsiness, they should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

5. If the symptoms are not obvious, how then would an infected person know?

Given the prevalence of chronic Hepatitis B carriers in our region, the best advice would be to go for a blood test to screen for Hepatitis B.

6. What are the dangers that one could face, if his or her Hepatitis B condition becomes chronic?

It may result in liver cirrhosis (hardening of the liver) or liver cancer.

7. How long before an infected person is deemed to have chronic Hepatitis B?

We will diagnose the person as a chronic Hepatitis carrier if the Hepatitis B surface antigen remains positive in their blood test result for 6 months or more.

8. How will a person be diagnosed, if he or she is suspected of being infected with Hepatitis B?

Through a blood test looking at the Hepatitis B surface antigen and Hepatitis B surface Antibodies;  a Hepatitis B core antigen is used to distinguish active from past infection.

9. What is the difference between Hepatitis B surface antigen and Hepatitis B surface antibody?

A Hepatitis B antigen detects the actual part of the virus and the antibody detects the body’s immune response to that same part of the virus.
HBsAg will be detected in an infected person’s blood an average of 4 weeks (range: 1–9 weeks) after exposure to the virus. About 1 of 2 patients will no longer be infectious by 7 weeks after onset of symptoms, and all patients who do not remain chronically infected will be HBsAg-negative by 15 weeks after onset of symptoms.

10. What are some of the ways in which Hepatitis B is treated?

There is no specific treatment; only supportive care.
In many cases, chronic Hepatitis B carriers do not need treatment but they will require 6 month follow up with blood tests and/ or ultrasound liver for the rest of their lives. In cases where Hepatitis B carriers require treatment, the treatment may involve immune molecules or antiviral medications.

11. Can Hepatitis B be transmitted from an infected mother to her newborn? How can this be avoided?

Yes, mothers can transmit Hepatitis B to their newborn. The best way to avoid passing the infection to their newborn is to get tested for Hepatitis B when they are pregnant or prior to starting a family. If they are not being infected with Hepatitis B and are not immune to Hepatitis B, they should consider getting a vaccination.

12. If your child gets infected with Hepatitis B and is not treated, what are some of the problems that he or she could face for the rest of his or her life?

The risk of developing chronic HBV infection after acute exposure is about 90% in newborns of HBeAg-positive mothers and 25% of they may go on to develop liver cirrhosis and liver cancers in the future.

13. Prevention of Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a vaccine-preventable disease. All sexual partners, family and close household members living with a chronically infected person should be tested and vaccinated.

14. Who should get the Hepatitis B vaccine?

  • All infants
  • Non-vaccinated children aged <19 years
  • People at risk for infection by sexual exposure
    • Sex partners of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg)–positive persons
    • Sexually active people who are not in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship (e.g., persons with more than one sex partner during the previous 6 months)
    • People seeking evaluation or treatment for a sexually transmitted infection
    • Men who have sex with men
  • People at risk for infection by percutaneous or mucosal exposure to blood
    • Current or recent injection-drug users
    • Household contacts of people who are HBsAg-positive
    • Residents and staff of facilities for developmentally disabled people
    • Health care and public safety personnel with reasonably anticipated risk for exposure to blood or blood-contaminated body fluids
    • Hemodialysis patients and predialysis, peritoneal dialysis, and home dialysis patients
    • People with diabetes aged 19–59 years; persons with diabetes aged ≥60 years at the discretion of the treating clinician
  • International travelers to countries with high or intermediate levels of endemic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection (HBsAg prevalence of ≥2%)
  • People with hepatitis C virus infection
  • People with chronic liver disease (including, but not limited to, persons with cirrhosis, fatty liver disease, alcoholic liver disease, autoimmune hepatitis, and an alanine aminotransferase [ALT] or aspartate aminotransferase [AST] level greater than twice the upper limit of normal)
  • People with HIV infection
  • People who are incarcerated

15. For people who have Hepatitis B, how does it impact their day to day activities and what are the best ways to cope?

For chronic Hepatitis B carriers, there are no major impacts on their day to day activities. They have to follow up with their doctors on a 6 month basis. They should, however, avoid alcohol because it can cause additional liver damage.

16. What are the signs showing that an infected person no longer has Hepatitis B?

For those who have acute Hepatitis B infection, if the HbsAg becomes negative after 6 months and they develop an immunity which will show on their HBsAb test, then it means they are cleared from the infection and are immune to the virus.

If you would like to find out more about Hepatitis B or C, come down to any of our clinics for a consultation.


Learn More about Other STDs & Other STD Symptoms

Also on DTAP: hiv screening, hiv screening singapore

Descovy As New HIV Medication For HIV PrEP

What is HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)?

HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is the use of medications to effectively prevent the transmission of HIV. Individuals who are taking PrEP can reduce their risk of contracting HIV infection by up to 99% if taken regularly. This type of medication must be taken before exposure to be effective. It is different from Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), which is taken immediately after possible exposure and uses additional medications.

PrEP is usually taken as a once-daily combination tablet of tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) + emtricitabine (brand name: Truvada), although other types of dosing regimens are available as well depending on the unique lifestyle of the individual. Studies have shown that PrEP is generally safe for long term use, but some may experience side effects such as a reduction in kidney function and bone density.

FDA Approved

The FDA recently approved a new drug combination of tenofovir alafenamide (TAF) + emtricitabine (brand name: Descovy) for use as PrEP, which has shown to be equally effective in preventing HIV infection whilst touting an improved safety profile for renal and bone toxicity.

The main difference between Descovy and Truvada is the form of tenofovir drug present – the newer Descovy uses TAF, which enters cells more efficiently than Truvada’s TDF, and means that a much lower dose of tenofovir is needed. This means that other tissues such as the kidney and bone are exposed to a much lower dose of the drug and there is less risk of drug toxicity.

The DISCOVER trial for Descovy as PrEP showed that the new drug is as effective as Truvada in preventing HIV transmission in men or transgender women who have sex with men, when taken as a once-daily tablet. They have not yet performed specific studies to evaluate protection in vaginal sex, or with other PrEP dosing schedules (such as Event-Based Dosing, T’s and S’s, etc.).

However, given that Descovy is essentially just a new and improved Truvada (which has been extensively studied in these situations), it is likely just a matter of time before further studies are done and show similar efficacy.

Descovy also includes a warning in usage as PrEP for patients with known hepatitis B infection, stating a potential risk of hepatitis B exacerbation after stopping the drug. While it can still be used as PrEP in patients with a history of hepatitis B infection, close monitoring of liver function and hepatitis B viral load for up to 6 months following discontinuation of Descovy is recommended (same as Truvada).

Speak To Our Doctors Today!

Descovy is currently available in all Dr Tan & Partners (DTAP clinics) in Singapore. It is a prescription-only medication and must be prescribed by a doctor. Speak to our doctors for more information about Descovy and find out if a HIV-1 treatment that contains Descovy is right for you. Dr Jonathan Ti, MB, BCh, BAO (Ireland), MRCP (UK), Cert. Men’s Health, is a member of the Singapore HIV PrEP Taskforce and is a co-author of the Singapore HIV PrEP Guidelines and is currently practising at our Robertson Walk Clinic.

HIV PrEP does not protect the user against other STDs. Therefore, even if you are on HIV PrEP, it is important to still to use a condom regularly, as well as get your regular STD screening & HIV Testing.

If you are interested to find out more about HIV PrEPplease call our any of our clinics or drop us an email at hello@dtapclinic.com for an appointment with our doctors.