What STDs are Curable?

More than 30 different bacteria, viruses and parasites are reported as being transmitted through sexual interactions. Eight of these pathogens are associated with the greatest incidence of sexually transmitted disease. Of these, the following four infections can be cured: syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis. The other four are viral infections and cannot be cured. These infections include hepatitis B, herpes simplex virus (HSV or herpes), HIV, and human papillomavirus (HPV). It is possible to reduce frequency or severity of the symptoms associated with these disease through treatment.

In most cases, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are spread through sexual contact, which can include vaginal, anal or oral intercourse. In some cases, STIs can be spread through non-sexual contact including through the blood or blood products. The following STIs can be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy or birth: syphilis, hepatitis B, HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, and HPV.

While a person can contract an STI without any obvious symptoms, the most common symptoms include vaginal discharge, urethral discharge, a burning sensation while urinating, genital ulcers, and abdominal pain.

STIs have a profound impact on sexual and reproductive health worldwide. Globally, STIs have a significant impact on patient’s sexual and reproductive health. Every day, more than 1 million STIs are acquired. In 2016, the World Health Organization estimated 376 million new infections, represented by at least one of the following four STIs: chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and trichomoniasis. While more than 500 million people are living with genital herpes, an estimated 300 million women have an HPV infection. HPV is the primary cause for cervical cancer. Throughout the world, an estimated 240 million people are living with chronic hepatitis B. With a vaccination, both HPV and hepatitis B infections can be prevented.

Beyond the immediate impact of the STI, these infections can have serious consequences which are summarized below.

  • HPV infection causes 570,000 cases of cervical cancer and more than 300,000 cervical cancer deaths annually
  • Patients with herpes and syphilis have an increased risk for contracting HIV
  • The transmission of an STI from mother-to-child can result in complications such as stillbirth, neonatal death, low-birth-weight and prematurity, sepsis, pneumonia, neonatal conjunctivitis, and congenital deformities. In 2016, about 1 million pregnant women were estimated to have active syphilis, which impacted the birth outcomes for more than 350,000 cases; 200,000 were reported as stillbirth or neonatal death
  • STIs including gonorrhea and chlamydia are major causes of female infertility and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Fortunately, there are effective treatment options which are currently available for some STIs.
  • Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and trichomoniasis can generally be cured with a single-dose regimen of antibiotics
  • While herpes and HIV cannot be cured, antivirals can be an effective medication to properly manage diseases and their symptoms
  • Hepatitis B virus can be fought using antiviral medications which also aid in slowing damage to the liver
  • Gonorrhea has demonstrated an antimicrobial resistance (AMR) to antibiotics, which has rapidly increased in recent years. This results in reduced treatment options. The Gonococcal AMR Surveillance Program (GASP) has also identified high rates of quinolone resistance, increasing resistance to azithromycin and new resistance of extended-spectrum cephalosporins, which is a last resort for treatment. Unfortunately, the emergence of decreased susceptibility of gonorrhea to extended-spectrum cephalosporins, combined with AMR which has already been shown towards penicillins, sulphonamides, tetracyclines, quinolones and macrolides make gonorrhea a multidrug-resistant organism. Fortunately, AMR for other forms of STIs are less common. As with any type of infection, including STIs, prevention and prompt treatment are vital for achieving the most successful possible outcome.

What Causes STDs in Men and Women?