The figures do not highlight drug-resistant infections separately but Teodora Wi, WHO medical officer specialising in sexual health, warned of the rise of STIs that may one day be impossible to treat.
In 2016, the WHO announced its global health sector strategy on sexually transmitted diseases in an effort to scale-up intervention and services to end STIs as public health concerns by 2030, including a 90 percent reduction in gonorrhea and syphilis. Women in the Americas top the list for chlamydia at seven percent. STIs remain a persistent and endemic health threat worldwide Since the last published data for 2012, there has been no substantive decline in either the rates of new or existing infections.
"We're seeing a concerning lack of progress in stopping the spread of sexually transmitted infections worldwide", said Peter Salama, executive director for Universal Health Coverage and the Life-Course at WHO. "We should ensure everyone, everywhere can access the services needed to prevent and treat these debilitating diseases".
If untreated, STIs can lead to many health problems including infertility, problems in pregnancy, and increased risk of HIV. In 2016, Syphilis caused approximately 200,000 stillbirths and newborn deaths, making the infection the leading global cause for infant deaths that year.
The health agency said bacterial STIs can be treated with widely available medications.
The stigma surrounding STIs is also associated with cases of domestic violence.
It however acknowledged that recent shortage in the global supply of benzathine penicillin has made it hard to treat syphilis. Syphilis can also be spread through contact with infected blood.
Timely and affordable testing and treatment are crucial in reducing the burden of STIs, alongside efforts to encourage people who are sexually active to get screened. STIs are preventable through safe sexual practices, including correct and consistent condom use and sexual health education.
World Health Organization also recommends that pregnant women should be systematically screened for syphilis and HIV.
The rise of antimicrobial resistance to gonorrhea treatments has also made it more hard to contain, World Health Organization researchers warn, adding that it may become a disease that is "impossible to treat".
Trichomoniasis, an STI caused by a protozoan parasite, was the most common worldwide, with an estimated 156 million infections in 2016. Coupled with the difficulty of these infections often not presenting symptoms, which allows for transmissions unknowingly to sexual partners or from mothers to infants, Taylor called this a "hidden epidemic, a silent epidemic, a unsafe epidemic, that is persistent globally".
STI symptoms can include discharge, pain urinating and bleeding between periods.
However, most cases are asymptomatic, meaning people may not be aware they have an infection prior to testing.