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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”



Sexually transmitted diseases affect industrialized as well as developing countries. The 20-24 age group is the most exposed to risk.

Annual incidence of curable STDs (which excludes AIDS) is 333 million cases. Apart from AIDS, the four most common STDs at present are:

Gonococcal infections


    • 62 million cases worldwide.


    • Inflammation of the mucosa of the birth canal, of the mucous membrane of the throat, and/or of the rectum. Possible complications include septicaemia, arthritis, endocarditis and meningitis.


    • Antibiotics.

Chlamydial infections


    • 89 million people.


    • There are no obvious clinical manifestations of this bacterial infection. If infection with chlamydia is not properly diagnosed, it can result in sterility in some women or in mother-to-child infection during childbirth, leading to conjunctivitis or eye inflammation in the baby. In men it can cause urethritis with possible infection of the ductus deferens and the testicles (epididymitis).


    • Antibiotics.



    • 12 million people.


    • Syphilis is the most deadly STD apart from AIDS. Signs of this bacterial infection range from skin eruptions to complications of the heart and nervous system.


    • Penicillin.



    • 170 million people.


    • This parasitic infection can lead to vaginitis and vaginal discharge in women. Usually, however, there are no symptoms.


    • Metronidazole.

The worldwide incidence of STDs is already high and constantly rising. The ever greater mobility of populations and weakening of traditional customs are increasing the prevalence of people having sexual relations with multiple partners.

Apart from their specific symptoms, STDs also increase the risk of HIV infection. There is considerable evidence that the genital inflammations and lesions caused by STDs increase the risk of sexual transmission of HIV.

Control strategy:

STD control remains one of the main priorities of the World Health Organization. WHO's strategy is based on:

1. promotion of responsible sexual behaviour;

2. general access to condoms at affordable prices;

3. inclusion of STD treatment in basic health services;

4. proper treatment of STDs (ie. use of correct drugs, treatment of sexual partners, education and advice, reliable supply of condoms);

5. promotion of early recourse to health services by people suffering from STDs and by their partners;

6. screening of clinically asymptomatic patients, such as women with syphilis during pregnancy.