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June 16, 2024
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WHO: HIV, Sexually Transmitted Infections Still Major Public Health Threat

According to a new WHO report, HIV, viral hepatitis epidemics and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) continue to be a major public health threat, causing 2.5 million deaths each year.

The new report titled “Implementing the global health sector strategies on HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections, 2022–2030” flags threats to the attainment of the related targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

The new data show that STIs are increasing in many regions. Despite many efforts of reducing the number of adult syphilis infections from 7.1 million to 0.71 million by ten-fold by 2030. Yet, new syphilis cases among adults aged 15-49 years increased by over 1 million in 2022 reaching 8 million. The highest increases occurred in the Region for the Americas and the African Region

“The rising incidence of syphilis raises major concerns”, said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Fortunately, there has been important progress on a number of other fronts including in accelerating access to critical health commodities including diagnostics and treatment. 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”.

An estimated 55% of new HIV infections occur among these Five key population groups — men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, sex workers, transgender individuals, and individuals in prisons and other closed settings.

HIV-related deaths continue to be high. In 2022, there were 630,000 HIV related deaths, 13% of these occurring in children under the age of 15 years. Around 1.2 million new hepatitis B cases and nearly 1 million new hepatitis C cases were recorded. 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.

WHO has validated 19 countries for eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV and/or syphilis, countries like Botswana and Namibia are on the path to eliminating HIV, with Namibia being the first country to submit a dossier to be evaluated for the triple elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, hepatitis B and syphilis.

The report outlines various recommendations for countries to strengthen shared approaches towards achieving their targets by expanding multi-disease elimination approaches and packages, strengthening the focus on primary prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

The implementation of the report will be discussed at the Seventy-seventh World health Assembly from May 27 to June 1, 2024

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