FIG | Female Genital Schistosomiasis Integration Group
UNCOVER FGS FOR WOMEN AND GIRLS
Female genital schistosomiasis (FGS) is a hidden disease affecting millions of girls and women in Africa with limited access to safe, clean water. It is a devastating infection that greatly increases the risk of HIV and cervical cancer, and can cause infertility, miscarriage and stillbirth.
FGS is easily treated and preventable. But it is often unrecognised and misdiagnosed as a sexually transmitted infection. This means many women and girls with FGS are being given the wrong treatment for their condition and can also be stigmatised for their assumed sexual activity.
This is unacceptable. And it’s time to put things right.
What is FGS?
FGS stands for female genital schistosomiasis. Schistosomiasis, or bilharzia, is a neglected tropical disease. It is caused by parasitic worms that live in lakes, rivers and ponds where people bathe, wash clothes and collect water.
The worms burrow into the skin and can cause inflammation, open sores and bleeding on the cervix and vagina. This increases the risk of serious reproductive health issues, including HIV and infertility.
FGS mainly affects women and girls who are already marginalised, who lack access to safe clean water, good hygiene and sanitation facilities.
FGS is treatable: a short course of medication (praziquantel) kills the worms. It is also preventable: the cycle of transmission is broken when people can access safe water, adequate sanitation and good hygiene.
What is FIG
The FGS Integration Group (FIG) is an innovative coalition of organisations galvanising joint action across the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), HIV, HPV/cervical cancer, neglected tropical disease (NTD) and WASH sectors to tackle the neglected issue of FGS. We are raising awareness of FGS with the aim of improving FGS diagnosis, treatment and prevention with and for women and girls through sustainable integration of FGS into SRHR and NTD programmes at scale.
Together we can tackle FGS. Support us to:
- Increase awareness of FGS and understanding about its devastating impact on women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights – particularly in communities in endemic areas and among healthcare workers.
- Train health professionals in sub-Saharan Africa to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment of FGS. Integrate FGS diagnostic, prevention and treatment services into sexual and reproductive health services and into policies and programmes for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), education and gender.
- Reduce stigma and discrimination women and girls with FGS experience by increasing awareness of the condition and access to comprehensive, good-quality information about sex and sexuality among healthcare workers and communities.
- Mobilise resources, political will and commitment to introduce and scale up the activities needed to address FGS.
We can gain so much if we address FGS. Doing so will take us a step closer to ensuring all women and girls – including those most marginalised – can access comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights services, leaving no-one behind. And there will be benefits far beyond sexual and reproductive health. Tackling FGS will bring about improved economic and educational opportunities, improved access to water and sanitation, and increased gender equality.
Want to join us in tackling FGS?
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Include FGS in your programming for women and girls health, equality and well-being. Check out our technical resources for information and tools on genital schistosomiasis (below).