The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said over one million new cases of curable sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are being reported daily among people aged 15 to 49 years.
A new data released by the UN health agency on Thursday said more than 376 million new cases are reported annually of four infections – chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomoniasis, and syphilis.
Published online by the Bulletin of the World Health Organisation, the research shows that among men and women aged 15–49 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.
These four diseases, Chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomoniasis, and syphilis, are potential outcomes of sex. Because there are limited ways to prevent them, the rates of infection remain very high worldwide.
Executive Director for Universal Health Coverage and the Life-Course at WHO, Peter Salama, said there is a concerning lack of progress in stopping the spread of sexually transmitted infections worldwide.
He said the statistics are 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.”
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.
According to WHO, Syphilis alone caused an estimated 200, 000 stillbirths and newborn deaths in 2016, making it one of the leading causes of baby loss globally.
STIs remain an endemic health threat
STIs spread predominantly through unprotected sex, 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 WHO data in 2012, the UN health agency said there has been no substantive decline in either the rates of new or existing infections.
“On 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.
STIs are preventable through safe sexual practices, including correct and consistent condom use and sexual health education. The disease is treatable and curable.
Timely and affordable testing and treatment are crucial for reducing the burden of STIs globally.
People who are sexually active should also be encouraged to get screened for STIs. WHO also 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, WHO said the recent shortages in the global supply of benzathine penicillin has made it more difficult to treat syphilis.
Also, the antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is affecting the treatment of many of the diseases. AMR is the ability of a microorganism (like bacteria, viruses, and some parasites) to stop an antimicrobial (an agent that kills microorganisms or stops their growth such as antibiotics, antivirals and antimalarials) from working against it. This is because of the misuse of antibiotics, use of non-prescribed antibiotics and not finishing the dosage.
The agency also lamented the rapidly increasing antimicrobial resistance to gonorrhoea treatments.
“This is also a growing health threat and may lead eventually to the disease being impossible to treat. As a result, standard treatments become ineffective, infections persist and may spread to others.” it said
Expanding access to prevention, testing and treatment
To reduce the global burden of the disease, WHO said countries and health partners should improve on researches to strengthen prevention, improve quality of care, develop point-of-care diagnostics and new treatments, and generate investment in vaccine development.
WHO said more data was available from women than men to generate these global estimates, and STI prevalence data remains sparse for men globally.
The international health agency advocated for improved national and global surveillance to ensure the availability of reliable information on the extent of the STI burden worldwide.