A million get sexually transmitted infections daily, WHO study shows

Thursday June 06 2019

A HIV test kit displays a negative result. WHO says chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomoniasis and syphilis — four of the most common venereal infections — account for more than a million new cases of curable STIs daily. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


By the end of this day, more than a million people around the world would have acquired a sexually transmitted infection, the World Health Organisation says, expressing concern over lack of progress in stopping their spread among 15-49 year olds.


In a report released Thursday, WHO said chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomoniasis and syphilis — four of the most common venereal infections — account for more than a million new cases of curable STIs daily.

The agency said more than 376 million new infections are recorded every year despite cures.

“There is lack of progress in stopping the spread of STIs worldwide,” Dr Peter Salama, the executive director for Universal Health Coverage and the Life-Course at WHO said.

“This is a wake-up call those concerned. We should ensure everyone, everywhere can access the services needed to prevent and treat these debilitating diseases.”


The health agency said bacterial STIs can be treated with widely available medications.

It however acknowledged that recent shortage in the global supply of benzathine penicillin has made it difficult to treat syphilis.

Rapidly increasing antimicrobial resistance to gonorrhoea treatment is also a growing threat, and may eventually lead to the disease being impossible to treat.

According to the WHO data, there were 127 million new cases of chlamydia among men and women aged 15-49, some 87 million gonorrhoea cases, syphilis (6.3 million) and 156 million cases of trichomoniasis in 2016.


WHO said it is worried about the profound impact on the health of adults and children from STIs.

If untreated, the illnesses can lead to serious and chronic health effects that include neurological and cardiovascular disease, infertility, ectopic pregnancies, stillbirths and increased risk of HIV.

Syphilis caused an estimated 200,000 stillbirths and newborn deaths in 2016, making it one of the leading causes of infant mortality globally.

STIs remain a persistent and endemic health threat worldwide

“Since the last report was published in 2012, there has been no substantive decline in either the rates of new or existing infections.

Approximately one in 25 people worldwide have at least one of these STIs, according to the latest figures “with some experiencing multiple infections at the same time”.

STIs spread predominantly through unprotected sexual contact.

Some like chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis can be transmitted during pregnancy and childbirth, or in the case of syphilis, through contact with infected blood or blood products, and injecting drug use.


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 in reducing the burden of STIs, alongside efforts to encourage people who are sexually active to get screened.

WHO also recommends that pregnant women should be systematically screened for syphilis and HIV.

WHO generates the 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 treatment and generate investment in vaccine development.

More data was available from women than men to generate these global estimates.

The organisation said STI prevalence data remains sparse for men.

The diseases are also associated with stigma and domestic violence.

WHO said this data provides the baseline for monitoring progress against the Global Health Sector Strategy on STIs, 2016—2021.