WHO updates fact sheet on Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) (9 December 2015)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has updated its fact sheet on Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).

Key Messages:

There are more than 30 different bacteria, viruses and parasites that are known to be transmitted sexually.

Eight of these disease causing agents are linked to the greatest incidence of sexually transmitted disease. Of these 8 infections, 4 are currently curable:

  • Syphilis
  • Gonorrhoea
  • Chlamydia and
  • Trichomoniasis

The other 4 are viral infections and are incurable:

  • Hepatitis B
  • Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV or herpes)
  • HIV and
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

STIs are spread predominantly by sexual contact, including vaginal, anal and oral sex. Some STIs can also be spread through non-sexual means such as through blood or blood products. STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhoea, primarily hepatitis B, HIV, and syphilis can also be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy and childbirth.

The majority of STIs have no symptoms or only mild symptoms that may not be recognized as an STI.

Common symptoms of STIs include:

  • vaginal discharge
  • urethral discharge or burning in men
  • genital ulcers and
  • abdominal pain

Globally, more than 1 million STIs are acquired every day.

Each year, there are an estimated 357 million new infections with 1 of 4 STIs:

  • Chlamydia (131 million),
  • Gonorrhoea (78 million),
  • Syphilis (5.6 million) and
  • Trichomoniasis (143 million)

More than 500 million people are living with genital HSV (herpes) infection.

At any point in time, more than 290 million women have an HPV infection, one of the most common STIs.

STIs can have serious consequences beyond the immediate impact of the infection itself:

  • STIs like herpes and syphilis can increase the risk of HIV acquisition three-fold or more.
  • Mother-to-child transmission of STIs can result in stillbirth, neonatal death, low-birth-weight and prematurity, sepsis, pneumonia, neonatal conjunctivitis, and congenital deformities.
  • HPV infection causes 528 000 cases of cervical cancer and 266 000 cervical cancer deaths each year.
  • STIs such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia are major causes of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and infertility in women.

Counselling and behavioural interventions offer primary prevention against STIs (including HIV), as well as against unintended pregnancies.

When used correctly and consistently, condoms offer one of the most effective methods of protection against STIs, including HIV.

Safe and highly effective vaccines are available for 2 STIs: hepatitis B and HPV.

Male circumcision reduces the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men by approximately 60% and provides some protection against other STIs, such as herpes and HPV.

Useful Links:

Link to the updated fact sheet:




One thought on “WHO updates fact sheet on Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) (9 December 2015)

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