The World Health Organisation (WHO) has raised an alarm over the increasing rate of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) around the globe, saying there are over 1 million new cases of curable STIs among people aged 15 to 49 years on a daily basis, which amounts to more than 376 million new cases annually of four infections – chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomoniasis, and syphilis.
Worried by this development, WHO’s Executive Director for Universal Health Coverage and the Life-Course, Dr Peter Salama, said this is wake-up call for a concerted effort to ensure everyone, everywhere can access the services they need to prevent and treat these debilitating diseases.
According to the new data, published online by the WHO Bulletin, it revealed that among men and women aged 15 to 49 years, there were 127 million new cases of chlamydia in 2016, 87 million of gonorrhoea, 6.3 million of syphilis and 156 million of trichomoniasis.
The report further noted that STIs have a profound impact on the health of adults and children worldwide. If untreated, they can lead to serious and chronic health effects that include neurological and cardiovascular disease, infertility, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirths, and increased risk of HIV. They are also associated with significant levels of stigma and domestic violence.
“Syphilis alone caused an estimated 200 000 stillbirths and new-born deaths in 2016, making it one of the leading causes of baby loss globally”, the report disclosed.
STIs remain a persistent and endemic health threat
STIs spread predominantly through unprotected sexual contact, including vaginal, anal and oral sex. Some—including chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and syphilis—can also be transmitted during pregnancy and childbirth, or, in the case of syphilis, through contact with infected blood or blood products, and injecting drug use.
Since the last published data for 2012, there has been no substantive decline in either the rates of new or existing infections. On average, approximately 1 in 25 people globally have at least one of these STIs, according to the latest figures, with some experiencing multiple infections at the same time.
Early Detection and Preventive Tips
STIs are preventable through safe sexual practices, including correct and consistent condom use and sexual health education.
Timely and affordable testing and treatment are crucial for reducing the burden of STIs globally, alongside efforts to encourage people who are sexually active to get screened for STIs. WHO further recommends that pregnant women should be systematically screened for syphilis as well as HIV.
All bacterial STIs can be treated and cured with widely available medications. However, recent shortages in the global supply of benzathine penicillin has made it more difficult to treat syphilis. Rapidly increasing antimicrobial resistance to gonorrhoea treatments is also a growing health threat, and may lead eventually to the disease being impossible to treat.
WHO generates estimates to assess the global burden of STIs, and to help countries and health partners respond. This includes research to strengthen prevention, improve quality of care, develop point-of-care diagnostics and new treatments, and generate investment in vaccine development.