Since 2013, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis have all greatly increased. In fact, the combined cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis reached a total higher than ever before in 2018, according to a yearly report released in October by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) called the Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance report. This is the fifth year in a row we’ve seen a rise in STD rates in the United States, making STDs a significant health challenge.
The report showed increases in syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia, and some of the rises were very large. Cases of primary and secondary syphilis rose nearly 15% to reach the highest number of reported cases since 1991. Syphilis cases among newborns saw a staggering 40% increase, and deaths related to congenital syphilis (passed from the mother to the child during pregnancy) increased 22% from 2017. Gonorrhea rates increased 5%, reaching the highest number reported since 1991, and chlamydia saw a 3% increase, with a total number of cases reaching higher than ever before. Additionally, the CDC says that many cases of these STDs and others, like herpes simplex disease and human papillomavirus, go undetected and unreported, meaning the actual rates could be far higher.
Why are STD rates rising?
Many different factors are coming together to push STD rates upwards, according to the CDC. These include a reduction in condom use among vulnerable groups including gay and bisexual men and young people; cuts to state and local STD programs that have resulted in closed health clinics and reductions in STD screening, staff, patient follow-up, and connecting patients with care services; as well as poverty, stigma, drug use, and unstable housing, all of which can reduce access to STD care and prevention services.
Can these STDs be treated?
Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis can all be treated and cured with antibiotics, but when left untreated, these diseases can contribute to vast problems including increased HIV risk, infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and transmission of the disease to others. Syphilis can also be transmitted to a baby during pregnancy and can contribute to complications like stillbirth, miscarriage, newborn death, and health problems throughout the baby’s lifespan.
What is being done to slow these rising STD rates?
A number of public health efforts are in place to deal with our nation’s high STD rates. The CDC is providing STD prevention and monitoring resources to local and state health departments, funding health departments to strengthen STD prevention and control initiatives, and supporting health departments by training health care providers, helping investigate and respond to outbreaks, and helping with community engagement.
Meanwhile, the US Department of Health and Human Services is responding to the STD epidemic by working on an action plan—in short called the STI Plan—that is expected to be released this year. The government is also advising healthcare providers to include STD screening and timely treatment of STDs as a standard component of care, and encouraging health departments to make sure STD-prevention resources are directed toward vulnerable populations.
The CDC also encourages people to talk openly about STDs, get tested regularly, and use condoms or engage in mutual monogamy to reduce risk of STD transmission.
If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com. We have offices in Phoenix, Ahwatukee, Casa Grande, Goodyear, Scottsdale, Gilbert, and Chandler.