From syphilis to gonorrhea, WHO flags ‘major increase’ in STIs worldwide

Georgia has more STIs per 100,000 people than most states

Sexually transmitted infections are on the rise, and the World Health Organization called the uptick a major concern for health officials.

Every day, more than 1 million people are infected by chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis or trichomoniasis, leading to 2.5 million deaths each year. Within the United States, Georgia ranked fifth for most cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea in 2022, and came in 20th for syphilis.

“The rising incidence of syphilis raises major concerns,” WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a news release.

“Fortunately, there has been important progress on a number of other fronts including in accelerating access to critical health commodities including diagnostics and treatment,” he said. “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.”

When untreated, syphilis can be deadly — even passed on to babies during pregnancy. In 2022, WHO set the goal of reducing annual syphilis infection rates tenfold by 2030. Instead, cases of the STI grew by more than 1 million before the year was over. But it’s not the only STI on the rise.

“In 2022, around 1.2 million new hepatitis B cases and nearly 1 million new hepatitis C cases were recorded,” according to the WHO report.

“The estimated number of deaths from viral hepatitis rose from 1.1 million in 2019 to 1.3 million in 2022 despite effective prevention, diagnosis, and treatment tools. New HIV infections only reduced from 1.5 million in 2020 to 1.3 million in 2022,” the report stated.

The organization did note that many countries are seeing gains concerning their efforts to expand access to STI health care, and the recent announcement is only a progress report for WHO’s six-year plan to curb STIs. But, according to the experts, new infections and STI-related deaths are not declining fast enough.