WHO’s Executive Director for Universal Health Coverage and Life-Course Dr. Peter Salama said there’s been no real progress in eliminating the spread of STDs, and the report is a wake-up call that more effort must be put forth to stem the crisis of these debilitating diseases.
The World Health Organization released the report that showed in 2016 that men and women between 15 and 49 years old had 156 new cases of trichomoniasis, 127 million cases of chlamydia, 87 million cases of gonorrhea and 6.3 million cases of syphilis. While these STDs can be treated with medications, not treating them can lead to a host of other health problems such as heart disease, ectopic pregnancies, stillbirths, infertility and increased risk of contracting HIV.
Due to the shortage of syphilis medication, it’s been more difficult to treat the infection. On top of that, medical professionals are concerned about the growing number of drug-resistant gonorrhea, which could make that disease difficult to treat entirely.
WHO’s Department of Reproductive Health and Research medical epidemiologist Dr. Melanie Taylor was the lead author of the study. She said the real problem stems from the fact that most people are oblivious they have a sexually transmitted disease because most don’t have any outward symptoms. This is why there are more and more people being diagnosed with it – the lack of awareness means people are spreading it without realizing it.
She said it’s a silent epidemic that’s extremely dangerous and persistent all around the world.
There are three primary ways in which the four STIs can be spread – unprotected sex via oral, vaginal or anal. Trichomoniasis is considered the most commonly cured STI, but it’s an infection that is caused by a parasite that gets transmitted during sex.
Still, there are other ways in which the infections can spread.
For example, syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia can be spread during pregnancy and childbirth, which is leading to a rise in the number of neonatal deaths – around 200,000 babies die each year from syphilis. This infection can be also be spread through infected drug or blood injections.
Written by Mark Riegel, MD
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