Alarming prevalence of sexually transmitted infections

Four infections — chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomoniasis and syphilis — amount for more than 376 million new cases annually

Published: Monday 10 June 2019

There are more than one million cases of curable sexually transmitted infections (STIs) everyday, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Four infections — chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomoniasis and syphilis — amount for more than 376 million new cases annually. 

Those affected by these infectious diseases are in the age group of 15-49 years — there were 127 million new cases of chlamydia in 2016, 87 million cases of gonorrhoea, 6.3 million cases of syphilis and 156 million cases of trichomoniasis. 

These STIs have a life-changing impact on the health of adults and children worldwide. If not treated in time, apart from social stigma, these can lead to serious implications like infertility, ectopic pregnancy and increased risk of HIV. Around 20 million stillbirths and newborn deaths were caused by syphilis alone. 

There has not been any significant decline in STI cases since 2012, when the data was last published. One in every 25 persons has at least one of these infections globally. WHO has expressed concern over the acute lack of progress in stopping these diseases worldwide. 

STIs generally spread through unprotected sex, including vaginal, oral and anal. Though, some of these infections like chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis can also be transmitted during pregnancy and childbirth. Syphilis, particularly, can also be transmitted through infected blood and injections. 

However, STIs are preventable through safe sex practices, such as regular use of condoms and sexual health education. Timely testing and treatment are very crucial.

The number of STI cases can be significantly brought down if the cure is given on time. It is also advisable for sexually active people to get screened for STIs. WHO further emphasizes on systematic screening of pregnant women for syphilis as well as HIV.

All bacterial STIs can be treated and cures are widely available. However, recent shortage in supply of benzathine penicillin has made it more difficult to treat syphilis. Also there is increasing antimicrobial resistance to gonorrhoea treatment — which is a growing health threat globally.

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