A recent research conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) has shown that among people within ages 15 to 49, over one million new Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) occur every single day.
That means more than 376 million new cases of four infections – chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomoniasis, and syphilis, are reported annually.
According to the research findings, in 2019, there were 127 million new cases of chlamydia, 87 million of gonorrhoea, 6.3 million of syphilis and 156 million of trichomoniasis.
Trichomoniasis is caused by infection by a parasite during sex. Chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhoea are bacterial infections.
The WHO highlights a lack of progress in stopping the spread of STIs, and says its figures are a “wake-up call”. Experts are particularly concerned about the rise in drug-resistant STIs.
The WHO regularly evaluates the global impact of the four common sexually transmitted infections. It looks at published research and collects reports from its workers in countries around the world.
Compared with its last analysis in 2012, the WHO reports “no substantive decline” in the rates of new or existing infections.
It suggests around one in 25 people globally has at least one of these four STIs, with some experiencing multiple infections at the same time.
STI symptoms can include discharge, pain urinating and bleeding between periods. However, many cases have no symptoms.
Serious complications can include pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility in women from chlamydia and gonorrhoea, and cardiovascular and neurological disease from syphilis.
If a woman contracts an STI when she’s pregnant, it can lead to stillbirth, premature birth, low birth-weight and health problems for the baby including pneumonia, blindness and congenital deformities.
Executive director for Universal Health Coverage and the Life-Course at WHO, Dr Peter Salama, said: “We’re seeing a concerning lack of progress in stopping the spread of sexually transmitted infections worldwide.
“This is a wake-up call for a concerted effort to ensure everyone, everywhere can access the services they need to prevent and treat these debilitating diseases.”
“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 the human-immuno virus (HIV).”
“STIs are also associated with significant levels of stigma and domestic violence. Chlamydia and gonorrhoea are major causes of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and infertility in women.”
Practicing safe sex, particularly through condom use, and better access to testing are both crucial, the WHO says. In terms of treatment, bacterial STIs can be treated and cured with widely available medications.
According to the report, syphilis alone caused an estimated 200,000 stillbirths and newborn deaths in 2016, making it one of the leading causes of baby loss globally.
“In its later stages, syphilis can cause serious cardiovascular and neurological disease. All four diseases are associated with an increased risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV. Transmission of these diseases during pregnancy can lead to serious consequences for babies, including stillbirth, neonatal death, low birth weight and prematurity, sepsis, blindness, pneumonia and congenital deformities,” it said.
The report further revealed that STIs remained a persistent and endemic health threat worldwide, indicating that since the last published data for 2012, there had been no substantive decline in either the rates of new or existing infections.
“On the average, approximately one 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,” it added.
The report also explained that syphilis treatment has been made more difficult because of a shortage in the specific kind of penicillin needed, and there has been an increase in cases of so-called “super-gonorrhoea” which is almost impossible to treat.
Dr Tim Jinks, head of Wellcome’s Drug Resistant Infection programme, said: “Untreatable cases of gonorrhoea are predecessors of a wider crisis, where common infections are harder and harder to treat.
“We urgently need to reduce the spread of these infections and invest in new antibiotics and treatments to replace those that no longer work, Jinks explained.”