Experts are warning women of a stealthy STI that often goes unnoticed but strikes one in 16 people in parts of the UK.
Trichomoniasis is more common than the well-known STI gonorrhea, experts have found.
But not only is it relatively unknown, it’s not always included in standard STI “checkups” at sexual health clinics or home kits.
The NHS recommends seeing a GP or sexual health clinic if you have symptoms of the disease, for both men and women.
However, about half of those who have it show no signs and are able to spread it further.
Others may be mystified by their symptoms, which may be vague.
New research suggests that many women carry trichomoniasis without realizing it – as many as one in 16 women in some areas.
And it disproportionately affects women from racial minorities and those from disadvantaged communities.
Dr John White, Medical Director at Preventx and Medical Consultant in Sexual Health and HIV, said: “Trichomoniasis is a relatively unknown STI in the general population, but it can cause significant pain and discomfort.
“I know from the patients I look after that it can also cause a lot of emotional distress for the infected person.
“Women, in particular, can remain infected for years – and their distressing symptoms are often misdiagnosed or overlooked.
“If untreated, TV [trichomoniasis] can also increase the risk of contracting HIV in at-risk communities, as well as cause complications during pregnancy.
The study involved 8,676 women across England.
Among them, 5,116 had had vaginal discharge – which is normal – and among them, 3.5% tested positive for trichomoniasis.
They were considered symptomatic because one of the signs of trichomoniasis is discharge, which may be excessive, thick, thin, or frothy, yellow-green, or have a fishy odor.
Rates were higher among women of Black, Black British, Caribbean or African descent (5.2%), but lower among White women (3.4%).
Nearly six percent (one in 16) of symptomatic women in the poorest communities tested positive, compared to 1.4 percent among the wealthiest women.
Looking at women with no vaginal discharge, 0.8% of white British women tested positive.
But twice as many women of black, black British, Caribbean or African descent (2%) and three times as many from a deprived area (2.7%) tested positive.
“Our new data shows worrying positivity rates, with some communities more affected than others,” Dr White said.
Trichomoniasis levels in the women studied were higher than gonorrhea – 3.5% versus 0.6%.
But gonorrhea is systematically tested, unlike trichomoniasis.
Dr White said trichomoniasis can be “easily diagnosed” outside of a clinic and then easily treated with antibiotics.
He therefore said it was “vital” that more testing was carried out across the UK.
This story originally appeared on The sun and has been reproduced here with permission.