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Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO)

Africa, America Recording Highest STDs – WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday said new data shows sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise in most regions, and the highest increases occur in the Region for Americas and the African Region.

The WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said this during his opening remarks at the media briefing held virtually on global health issues.

Global HIV, viral hepatitis epidemics, and Sexually Transmitted Infections continue to pose significant public health challenges.

According to the National AIDS and STDs Control Program, there are about three million reported annual cases of STIs mainly caused by chlamydia, N. gonorrhoea, and trichomonas vaginalis in Nigeria.

STIs pose a myriad of complications in the short, medium, and long term, with women being particularly vulnerable to their effects.

Ghebreyesus said, “New syphilis cases among adults aged 15-49 years increased by nearly one million in 2022, reaching eight million. And there were 230,000 syphilis-related deaths.

“The highest increases occurred in the Region for the Americas and the African Region. New data also show an increase in multi-resistant gonorrhoea.

“As of 2023, out of 87 countries where enhanced gonorrhoea antimicrobial resistance surveillance was conducted, nine countries reported elevated levels of resistance to the last line of treatment for gonorrhoea.”

The WHO boss, however, noted that the organisation updated its recommended treatment to reduce the spread of this multi-resistant gonorrhoea strain.

Further data from the WHO showed that 1.1 million pregnant women were estimated to be infected with syphilis in 2022, resulting in over 390,000 adverse birth outcomes.

It also said drug resistance is a major threat to reducing the burden of STIs worldwide.

Earlier, Ghebreyesus said the rising incidence of syphilis raises major concerns.

“Fortunately, there has been important progress on several other fronts including in accelerating access to critical health commodities including diagnostics and treatment.

“We have the tools required to end these epidemics as public health threats by 2030, but 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”.

On prevention, the global health body said condoms offer one of the most effective methods of protection against STIs, including HIV when used correctly and consistently,

“Although highly effective, condoms do not offer protection for STIs that cause extra-genital ulcers (i.e., syphilis or genital herpes). When possible, condoms should be used in all vaginal and anal sex.

“Safe and highly effective vaccines are available for two viral STIs: hepatitis B and HPV. These vaccines have represented major advances in STI prevention. By the end of 2023, the HPV vaccine had been introduced as part of routine immunisation programmes in 140 countries, primarily high- and high-middle-income countries.

“To eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem globally, high coverage targets for HPV vaccination, screening and treatment of precancerous lesions, and management of cancer must be reached by 2030 and maintained at this high level for decades,” it added.