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WHO alarmed at STD spread in the era of dating apps

The World Health Organisation expressed alarm at the lack of progress on curbing sexually transmitted diseases, while one of its experts warned of complacency as dating apps are spurring sexual activity. 

The UN health agency said in a fresh report that every day globally there were more than one million new cases of treatable sexually transmitted diseases (STD) or infections (STI). 

WHO found that there were more than 376 million new cases of chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomoniasis and syphilis registered around the world in 2016 – the latest year for which data is available. 

That is basically the same number as WHO reported in its previous study, based on data from 2012. 

Since it’s seldom the symptoms would display early on, people often do not know they have been infected and need treatment, allowing the diseases to continue to spread.  

If left untreated, STIs can lead to serious and chronic conditions, including neurological and cardiovascular disease, infertility, stillbirths and increased risk of contracting HIV. 

Syphilis alone caused some 200,000 stillbirths and newborn deaths in 2016, making one of the leading cause of baby loss globally, second only to malaria, Taylor said. 

STIs spread mainly through unprotected sexual contact, but some like chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis can also be transmitted during pregnancy and childbirth. 

Given the hidden nature of the epidemic, WHO said it was important for people who are sexually active to get screened for STIs, and especially recommended that pregnant women be systematically screened for syphilis, as well as HIV. 

Correct condom use was one of the most effective methods for protecting against STI transmission. 

WHO also stressed the importance of comprehensive sexual education and easy access to STI screening as well as treatment.  The UN health agency meanwhile warned that, while all bacterial STIs have until now be easy to treat using antibiotics, drug shortages and growing antimicrobial resistance were threatening those treatments. 

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