More than 1 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections are diagnosed each day, according to data released by the World Health Organization.
This adds up to about 376 million new cases every year in total from the four STIs, also commonly referred to as STDs: chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, and syphilis.
"We're seeing a concerning lack of progress in stopping the spread of sexually transmitted infections worldwide," said Dr. Peter Salama, WHO's Executive Director for Universal Health Coverage and the Life-Course. "This is 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 Continue To Be A Global Health Threat
The newly released figures were published online by the Bulletin of the World Health Organization on Thursday, June 6. It revealed that among men and women aged 15 to 49 in 2016, there were 127 million new cases of chlamydia, 87 million of gonorrhea, 6.3 million of syphilis, and 156 million of trichomoniasis.
While many cases of STDs are treatable with medications, these infections are also known to lead to severe and complicated health consequences, such as infertility, heart disease, neurological issues, ectopic pregnancies, stillbirths, and increased risk of HIV, among others.
Medication shortages have also made it more difficult to treat syphilis worldwide. The increasingly antimicrobial resistance of gonorrhea is also a concern to many health experts who say the infection may eventually become impossible to treat.
Lead author Dr. Melanie Taylor, a medical epidemiologist at WHO's Department of Reproductive Health and Research, explained to CNN that another challenge is that many STI cases don't have symptoms, so patients aren't aware they're at risk and don't seek treatment. Thus, the rate of transmission remains high, and people often pass it on to their sexual partners unknowingly.
Taylor described the spread of STIs as a "hidden epidemic, a silent epidemic, a dangerous epidemic, that is persistent globally."
More About STIs
All four STIs are primarily transmitted through unprotected vaginal, anal, and oral sex. Trichomoniasis, which is the most common curable STI in the world, is an infection from a parasite transmitted during intercourse.
However, there are other ways of spreading these infections. Some STIs, including the bacterial infections chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, are also transmitted during pregnancy and childbirth from mother to child. Roughly 200,000 neonatal deaths and stillbirths are caused by syphilis annually.
Syphilis can also be contracted through contact with infected blood or drug injections.