Sexual and reproductive health

Innovative approach sheds light on prevalence of STIs and bacterial vaginosis among women in sub-Saharan Africa

Mother holding her teen daughter in arms, Ivory Coast.
UNICEF/Frank Dejongh

27 February 2018 | Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and bacterial vaginosis (BV), a common infection of the vagina, are widespread globally. These conditions have important health consequences, including genital symptoms, pregnancy complications, infertility, enhanced HIV transmission, and psychosocial effects. The World Health Organization estimated that, in 2012, there were 357 million new episodes of four curable STIs (chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, and trichomoniasis) and 417 million people had infection with herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). Global estimates of BV occurrence, however, have never been made. In a recently published study, investigators heeded this call to action by using combined data from 18 HIV prevention studies, including more than 37 000 women in sub-Saharan Africa, to estimate the prevalence of chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, trichomoniasis, HSV-2, and BV.

Prevention, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Sexually Transmitted Infections
A WHO-sponsored Collection in PLOS Medicine

27 December 2017 | A collection of freely-available journal articles has been published in PLOS that looks at current issues around the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). STIs are common, diverse and dangerous. Some are easily treated if diagnosed, others, such as HIV have no cure and may be life threatening, and there are also new and emerging infections that can be transmitted sexually such as the Ebola and Zika viruses.

Shortages of benzathine penicillin. How big is the problem? And why it matters

27 December 2017 | Syphilis is unique among sexually transmitted diseases in that it remains curable with a single dose of penicillin (with no documented risk of resistance), formulated for this purpose as long-acting Benzathine Penicillin G (BPG). WHO estimates that every year, 930 000 pregnant women have probable active syphilis (transmissible during pregnancy) which results in approximately 350 000 adverse birth outcomes (including organ deformities and prematurity) annually. Tragically, neonatal death and stillbirth account for more than half of those adverse birth outcomes.

“The way forward”: Quick, accurate tests to diagnose sexually transmitted infections

STIs consultation in a health center, Papua New Guinea
WHO/Yoshi Shimizu

12 December 2017 | A special supplement to the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections highlights the urgent importance of investing in the research, development and scaling up of the use of point-of-care tests. These innovative tests have a number of important benefits. They can be used in diverse settings by professional and lay health workers alike – and sometimes, even allow people to test themselves. Since they allow people to be tested, diagnosed and treated for STIs in a single visit, they can also help to reduce the burden on health workers and systems and can therefore also reduce expensive laboratory costs.

Six Caribbean islands eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis


1 December 2017 | Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and St. Kitts and Nevis today received a certificate from the World Health Organization (WHO) that validates their elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.

Why talking about sex is good for your health

13 December 2017 | In this funny and eye-opening talk about the challenges we face today with safe sex and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), Teodora Elvira Wi shares heartwarming personal stories around sex, STIs and the urgent need to break down the stigma.

Scientists warn that antibiotic-resistant gonorrhoea is on the rise

image of youth in park
WHO /Sergey Volkov

07 July 2017: Every day, more than 1 million sexually transmitted infections are acquired worldwide, and each year an estimated 78 million people are infected with gonorrhoea . New data from 77 countries show that antibiotic resistance is making gonorrhoea much harder – and sometimes impossible – to treat.

First global estimates of annual number of neonatal herpes cases

United Nations Photo

31 January 2017 - Neonatal herpes is a rare but potentially devastating complication of genital herpes during pregnancy, which can cause brain damage, breathing problems, seizures and even death. Neonatal herpes infection can occur when an infant is exposed to herpes simplex virus types 1 or 2 (HSV-1 or HSV-2) in a woman’s genital tract during birth. For the first time, researchers from WHO, the University of Bristol, and the University of Washington have published in new estimates The Lancet Global Health that aim to evaluate the approximate global burden of this disease.

WHO launches new treatment guidelines for chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis

30 August 2016: More than 1 million sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are acquired every day worldwide. STIs present a major burden of disease and negatively affect people’s well-being across the globe. Chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis are three STIs which are all caused by bacteria and which can potentially be cured by antibiotics. Unfortunately, these STIs often go undiagnosed and due to antibiotic resistance, they are also becoming increasingly difficult to treat.

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WHO Reproductive Health Update
Monthly electronic newsletter of new publications, research articles and events from the Department of Reproductive Health and Research