WHO report finds that sexually transmitted infections cases are increasing

Global HIV, viral hepatitis epidemics and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) continue to pose “significant public health challenges,” causing 2.5 million deaths each year, a World Health Organization (WHO) report said on Tuesday.

According to the publication, STIs are increasing in many regions as the number of cases surpasses the set goals.

In 2022, WHO member states set out a target of reducing the annual number of adult syphilis infections by tenfold by 2030, from 7.1 million to 0.71 million.

“Yet, new syphilis cases among adults aged 15-49 years increased by over 1 million in 2022 reaching 8 million,” the report said, adding that the highest increases occurred in the region of Americas and the African region.

“The rising incidence of syphilis raises major concerns,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus. “Fortunately, there has been important progress on a number of other fronts including in accelerating access to critical health commodities including diagnostics and treatment.”

Underlining the tools required to end these epidemics as public health threats by 2030 are already present, he said “we now need to ensure that, in the context of an increasingly complex world, countries do all they can to achieve the ambitious targets they set themselves.”

Increase in infections

Four curable STIs – syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis account for over 1 million infections daily, according to the report. In 2022, 230,000 syphilis-related deaths were reported, it showed.

New data also showed an increase in multi-resistant gonorrhoea as out of 87 countries where enhanced gonorrhoea antimicrobial resistance surveillance was conducted, nine countries reported elevated levels (from 5% to 40%) resistance to ceftriaxone, the last line treatment for gonorrhoea as of 2023.

In 2022, the report found that around 1.2 million new hepatitis B cases and nearly 1 million new hepatitis C cases were recorded. Meanwhile, the estimated number of deaths from viral hepatitis rose from 1.1 million in 2019 to 1.3 million in 2022 “despite effective prevention, diagnosis, and treatment tools.”

New HIV infections only reduced from 1.5 million in 2020 to 1.3 million in 2022, it said, adding that there were 630,000 HIV-related deaths in the same year, 13% of those occurring in children under the age of 15.

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