Background: Data on sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in Saudi Arabia (SA) and other Islamic countries are limited. This study describes the results of a five-year surveillance for STIs in SA.
Methods: This is a case series descriptive study of all confirmed STIs diagnosed in SA from January, 1995 through December, 1999.
Results: A total of 39049 STIs were reported to the Ministry of Health. Reported STIs included nongonococcal urethritis (14557 infections, 37.3%), trichomoniasis (10967 infections, 28.1%), gonococcal urethritis (5547 infections, 14.2%), syphilis (3385 infections, 8.7%), human immunodeficiency virus (2917 infections, 7.5%), genital warts (1382, 3.5%), genital herpes (216 infections, 0.6%), and chancroid (78 infections, 0.2%). The average annual incidence of STIs per 100,000 population for Saudis and non-Saudis, respectively, was as follows: 14.8 and 7.5 for nongonococcal urethritis, 9.4 and 10.4 for trichomoniasis, 5.2 and 4.2 for gonorrhea, 1.7 and 6.4 for syphilis, 0.6 and 8.0 for HIV, 1.4 and 0.7 for genital warts, 0.1 and 0.4 for genital herpes, and 0.1 and 0.1 for chancroid. The incidence of STIs was somewhat steady over the surveillance period except for nongonococcal urethritis which gradually increased.
Conclusion: Nongonococcal urethritis, trichomoniasis, and gonococcal urethritis were the most commonly reported STIs in SA. Even though the incidence of STIs in SA is limited, appropriate preventive strategies that conform to the Islamic rules and values are essential and should be of highest priority for policymakers because of the potential of such infections to spread particularly among the youth.