The World Health Organisation (WHO) released a report in June 2019 stating that every single day, there are more than 1 million new cases of curable sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among people aged 15-49 years. These are just from 4 infections – chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomoniasis, and syphilis.
This amounts to more than 376 million new cases annually. This is probably a lower number than the actual prevalence in the global population, as these are just the reported cases. On average, approximately 1 in 25 people globally have at least one of these STIs, with some experiencing multiple infections at the same time.
About these 4 STIs
Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea
Chlamydia and gonorrhoea are bacterial infections that can be spread through sexual intercourse (oral, vaginal or anal). They can be asymptomatic in some people, but in others can cause urinary symptoms such as penile or vaginal pain, urethral discharge, pain on passing urine, urinary frequency and urgency.
They can also cause irregular spotting in females. The long term complications of untreated chlamydia and gonorrhoea are pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in females and infertility in both sexes.
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Trichomoniasis is caused by infection by a parasite transmitted during sexual intercourse. The parasite usually infects the lower genital tract (vagina or penis). It can also cause symptoms such as those mentioned above.
Also Read: STD Symptoms in Women
Syphilis is a bacterial infection that can result in genital ulcers and a rash. In its later stages, syphilis can affect your eyes, ears, heart, nerves, bones, kidneys and liver. It can cause serious cardiovascular and neurological disease and even death.
All four diseases are associated with an increased risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV. Transmission of these diseases during pregnancy can lead to serious consequences for babies including stillbirth, neonatal death, low birth-weight and prematurity, sepsis, blindness, pneumonia, and congenital deformities.
It is important to note that most cases are asymptomatic, meaning people may not have any symptoms at all and are unaware they have an infection if they do not test for these STIs.
How Do We Go About Managing These STIs?
These 4 infections are easily detectable, preventable and curable.
STD Testing: There are multiple ways to detect these STIs, but in general, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and Trichomonas can be detected with a swab test in females or a urine test in males. Syphilis can be detected with a blood test. Read: Comprehensive STD Screening
STD Treatment: After being treated with antibiotics, these infections can be fully cleared from the body. However, because a significant proportion of people can be without symptoms, these infections can go untreated in a person for long periods of time, wreaking havoc on their genitourinary and reproductive tract. These people can also spread these infections to other people, exacerbating this persistent and endemic health threat.
A point to note is that some strains of these infections (Gonorrhoea in particular) are developing multi-drug resistance and evolving into “super-bugs” that are increasingly difficult to treat with current antibiotics. Significant resources are being directed to research in this area, but the most important thing is to get tested and treated early.
Who Should Get Tested?
If you have never been tested for STIs before, but have been exposed to sexual encounters in the past, we would recommend you to get tested.
We also recommend anyone who has had a new sexual encounter to get tested, even if you had used condoms. While it is true that condoms greatly reduce the risk of transmission of STIs, it does not absolutely foolproof as unsurprisingly in the real world they are not always used perfectly.
Of course, if you have any symptoms, please do get tested and treated.
The above 4 STIs are just 4 of the many STIs that you can acquire through sexual contact. There are other STIs that we are concerned about. Other STIs such as the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C, Human Papillomavirus (HPV), Chancroid, Molluscum, Pubic Lice and Scabies are some others that we are also concerned about.
- What are the Signs & Symptoms of HIV
- STD Symptoms on Genital Ulcers, Genital Blisters & Genital Warts
- 10 Causes of Vaginal Lumps & Bumps
- Oral Herpes – Cold Sore
It is important that sexually active individuals read up and learn about these STIs to know the signs, symptoms, and modes of transmission to better protect themselves. Knowing more about these STIs will also encourage a person to get treated early should they develop such symptoms.
How Do You Reduce Your Risk of Contracting These STIs?
Abstinence is the only way to reduce your risk to zero.
If you are sexually active, use barrier protection such as condoms, the right way. You can also speak to your partner to get tested for STIs before engaging in sexual activity. A mutually monogamous relationship also carries a lower risk of STIs than having multiple sexual partners.
If you are sexually active with multiple sexual partners, get yourself tested regularly and treated. The presence of one STI can increase your risk of contracting another one more easily. Most STIs can easily be detected through swabs, urine or blood tests at your doctors. These are rather pain-free and minimally invasive, so there should be no fear to get tested!
There are some STIs that are preventable through vaccinations. HPV Vaccines are available against certain strains of HPV that may cause warts, cervical, anal and penile cancer. Effective vaccines against Hepatitis B are available as well.
In summary, the WHO has highlighted the 4 STIs specifically as they are the one which can be completely eradicated from the body if treated properly. But there are other STIs that we should be concerned about too. The best thing you can do is to protect yourself against these STIs through the above-mentioned suggestions.
Get yourself tested regularly if you have new sexual partners. If you have any symptoms, get yourself treated early, and avoid sexual contact until you have been treated and cleared by the doctor as well.
Take Care & Stay safe!
Other Interesting Reads:
- The HIV Pro-Virus DNA Test can be done 10 days post exposure.