World Health Organization has "major concerns" over syphilis infection spike

Geneva, Switzerland - The World Health Organization (WHO) is sounding the alarm about setbacks in the fight against sexually transmitted diseases.

The annual number of new syphilis infections rose from around 7.1 million in 2020 to 8 million in 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported Tuesday.
The annual number of new syphilis infections rose from around 7.1 million in 2020 to 8 million in 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported Tuesday.  © Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

The annual number of new syphilis infections rose from around 7.1 million in 2020 to 8 million in 2022, the UN organization reported in Geneva on Tuesday.

The largest increases were recorded on the American continent and in Africa. A total of 230,000 people died from the bacterial disease in 2022.

"The rising incidence of syphilis raises major concerns," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

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According to his organization's report, a total of more than 1 million people are infected with syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, or trichomoniasis every day. These four sexually transmitted diseases are all curable.

From the WHO's perspective, new HIV infections are also falling too slowly: In 2022, there were 1.3 million, only 200,000 fewer than in 2020.

On the other hand, the WHO reported positive progress: Around three-quarters of all people with HIV are being treated with antiretroviral drugs.

According to the report, many countries have already developed health strategies to prevent the transmission of HIV and syphilis from mothers to their children.

Cover photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

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