WHO Study Warns 1 in 25 People, Globally, Has an STI

More than one million new sexually transmitted infections cases are diagnosed across the world every day (among men and women between the ages of 15 and 49). Unfortunately, this figure shows just how little progress global health officials have made to curb infections over the last five years. 

A study from the World Health Organization explains that these one million cases involve at least one of four prominent infections: chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis (trich), and syphilis.  Specifically, figures from 2016 suggest there are an estimated 127 million new chlamydia cases 156 new trich infections, 87 cases of gonorrhea, and 6.3 million syphilis cases.  To put this into perspective, about one in 25 people around the world has at least one of these STIs (which are also sometimes known as STDs). 

STIs, of course, are diseases or infections transmitted through direct physical oral or genital contact. Some of these infections, unfortunately, can also pass from mother to child in the womb or during birth. In addition, Syphilis can spread through contact with infected blood. 

World Health Organization executive director for universal health coverage and life course, Dr. Peter Salama, comments that there has, in fact, been a “concerning lack of progress” aimed at preventing the spread of sexually transmitted infections, globally.  He admits that this is a wake-up call to boost efforts that will better ensure everyone, everywhere has access to the services they need to prevent and treat these infections.

Dr. Melanie Taylor is a medical epidemiologist at the WHO Department of Reproductive Health and Research. She advises that these numbers mean more than just a rise in STIs.  She says, “These infections indicate people are taking risks with their health, with their sexuality, and with their reproductive health.”

If these infections go untreated, they can lead to other health concerns including a variety of neurological and cardiovascular issues as well as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth, and an increased risk for contracting HIV.  In 2016, Syphilis alone resulted in roughly 200,000 stillbirths or newborn deaths; which means it was the leading global cause of infant deaths that year.

The study has been published, online, in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization.