There are over 1 million cases of sexually transmitted infections contracted every single day across the world. Thats quite a sobering statistic from the World Health Organisation. Each year, there are approximately 357 million new infections of the top 4 infections chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhoea and trichomoniasis.
Most STIs have only mild or no symptoms whatsoever and might even go undetected as an STI. In some cases, undetected STIs can have serious repercussions for long-term reproductive health, leading to infertility or mother-to-child transmission.
A major threat to global health is the current impact of drug resistance, particularly for gonorrhoea. There are more than 30 different parasites, bacteria and viruses that can be transmitted via sexual contact. STIs are mostly spread through sexual contact through vaginal, anal ad oral sex. Some can also be transmitted through non-sexual contact such as blood, for example.
Anyone can contract an STI without necessarily displaying any clear symptoms. If symptoms are experienced, they can include vaginal or urethral discharge, a burning sensation when urinating, genital ulcers and pain in the abdomen.
The size of the problem worldwide is profound, affecting both sexual and reproductive health. Over 500 million people are currently living with a herpes infection and 290 million women with the human papilloma virus.
STIs can damage health beyond the symptoms of the actual virus itself. Transmission from mother to child can lead to stillbirths, low weight and premature birth. Infections like gonorrhoea and chlamydia are a major cause of pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility. The HPV infection leads to hundreds of thousands of cases of cervical cancer every year.
Preventing STIs is of vital importance with approaches including:
Counselling and behavioural methods these offer a first-line defence against STIs and unwanted pregnancy. This could include sex education, testing and pre and post-test counselling. Get yourself checked out with Chlamydia testing kits Bexley frombexleysexualhealth.org/home_sti_kits
Safe sex education and promotion of condoms.
Programmes aimed at specific at-risk groups like sex workers, drug users and men who sex with men.
Education geared towards adolescents.
Improving peoples knowledge of symptom recognition to increase the likelihood of them seeking medical attention or encouraging a partner to do so.
The most effective way to prevent the spread of infection is to use a barrier method, such as a condom. Female condoms are also safe and effective but not as commonly used as the male condom.
Treatment of STIs is widely available with the most common bacterial infections being treated with a single-dose of antibiotics.
The increasing resistance to antibiotics has caused concern across the world. This has reduced the treatments available, especially for gonorrhoea. Gonorrhoea has shown resistance to last-line antibiotic medication and antimicrobial substances like penicillin, meaning its a multi-drug resistant organism. This kind of antimicrobial resistance has also started to appear in the treatment of other STIs, which is why prevention and quick treatment remain crucial.