Sexually transmitted infections/diseases (STIs or STDs) like syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia are on the rise worldwide. But hardly anyone talks about it. To mark STD Awareness Month, we explain why education is so important.
The numbers published by the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin are concerning. For many years the number of new HIV diagnoses was stable, but they have been on the rise again since 2012. In Germany, about 3,200 persons were infected with HIV in 2015. Syphilis, a disease that was considered eradicated nearly twenty years ago, was diagnosed 6,834 times in 2015, an increase of 149 % since 2009. Gonococcal infections are also escalating: In Saxony the incidence increased tenfold between 2001 and 2014 (Source).
Sexually transmitted infections are a growing problem in many countries. According to the WHO, worldwide more than 1 million people a day are infected with a sexually transmitted disease. The most frequent are syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis. Each year, there are an estimated 357 million new infections with one of four of these STIs (Source). Observations also confirm a high prevalence of the other more than 30 known sexually transmissible pathogens, e.g., mycoplasmas or HPV.
One reason for the increase is that sexual diseases are still stigmatized and taboo even in industrialized countries. The topic is therefore less prevalent in society. That lessens the fear of infection – and for many people the need to use adequate protection.
Many cases go undiagnosed.
The situation is made worse by the fact that most sexually transmitted diseases cause only mild or no symptoms, so the infection often goes undetected. The risk of passing on the infection therefore rises. Furthermore, untreated infections can cause organ damage, cancer, infertility, and in pregnant women, severe damage to the child.
These reasons make it very important to raise awareness about the risks and to detect infections early. Once diagnosed, all sexually transmitted infections are treatable with good results. However, the increase in antibiotic-resistant pathogens worldwide remains problematic. Very few antibiotics are effective for gonococci, for example.