Record High Number of STD Cases Concern of Public Health

In its report on reported cases of sexually transmitted diseases in 2015, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that the resulting statistics revealed the number of cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis set a record high.

Last year, when the federal public health agency released its annual report on sexually transmitted diseases for 2014, officials were concerned with the increasing number of reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. That upward trend in the sexually-transmitted infections continued into and through 2015, resulting in the all-time high diagnoses of STDs. CDC officials caution, too, that there are likely more unreported cases of these three common diseases.

Number of Reported Cases of the Three Most Common Sexually Transmitted Diseases in the U.S.

  • Chlamydia: More than 1.5 million cases, an increase of 5.9 percent over 2014 cases
  • Gonorrhea: More than 395,000 cases, an increase of 12.8 percent over 2014 cases
  • Syphilis: Primary and Secondary stages (most infectious stages), more than 23,750 cases, an increase of 19 percent over 2014 cases

Why Are the Rates of Sexually Transmitted Diseases Increasing?

Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention said:

“We have reached a decisive moment for the nation. STD rates are rising, and many of the country’s systems for preventing STDs have eroded. We must mobilize, rebuild and expand services – or the human and economic burden will continue to grow.”

Mermin pointed to budget cuts in the majority of U.S. State and local STD programs having experienced budget cuts as part of the explanation for the rising rates of the diseases, noting that 20 health department STD clinics closed in just one year.

When people lose access to free or low-cost testing and services for sexually transmitted diseases, it is reasonable to assume that fewer people will seek less affordable services. People who have untreated STDs then pass those infections on to their partners through risky sexual behavior, that is unprotected sex – the same behavior that exposed the originally-infected person initially.

What Is the Health Impact of Higher Rates of Sexually Transmitted Diseases?

Although the three most common sexually transmitted diseases – chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis – can generally be treated successfully with antibiotics to stop and infection and any complications arising from the infection, under-reported and untreated STDs put infected individuals at risk of complications, including pelvic infections in women, sterility, blindness or stroke. In addition to these potential complications, untested and untreated STDS can cause other irreversible health problems including a higher risk to contract HIV and chronic pain.

Untreated syphilis in particular can lead to miscarriages or congenital syphilis, meaning the newborn child is born with syphilis. Dr. Gail Bolan, Director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, explained:

“The health outcomes of syphilis – miscarriage, stillbirth, blindness or stroke – can be devastating. The resurgence of congenital syphilis and the increasing impact of syphilis among gay and bisexual men makes it clear that many Americans are not getting the preventive services they need. Every pregnant woman should be tested for syphilis, and sexually active gay and bisexual men should be tested for syphilis at least once a year.”

Public health officials also note that in addition to the health consequences of untreated sexually transmitted diseases is the economic burden these infection create: more than $15 billion annually, pointing to the necessity of both STD prevention and treatment programs.


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