The World Health Organization (WHO) is reporting what officials call an unusual spike in the number of new cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
The WHO says the increase is especially high in sub-Saharan Africa. But it notes a decrease in STDs in South Africa and neighboring countries. The findings were part of in a new report on the impact of these infections on the continent.
"Some young people are assuming that now HIV has got treatment, has got cure, which it has not," says Dr. Francis Ndowa, head of the STD Control Unit of the WHO in Geneva.
"Some of them are beginning not to practice safer sex, so we are beginning to see increases in some STDs like syphilis, gonorrhea, and we also have a problem of resistance of gonorrhea to some of the common antibiotics that are being used."
Ndowa warns against complacency by the younger population in the fight against STDs.
"The important thing is to realize that there are some infections out there which, when they are acquired, cannot be cured. These are viral infections and HIV is one of them, herpes is another.
HIV can be fatal and not everybody has access to anti-retroviral treatment. They are not easy to take and they are not cheap. So the prevention of these infections is still important, even though there is some access to treatment. "
In southern Africa, says Ndowa, there is greater awareness of HIV/AIDS, and physicians practice early intervention. Rather than waiting for the test results, they often begin treatment based on symptoms. Both awareness and early treatment have been found effective in fighting HIV/AIDS.