STD Rates in the U.S hit a Record High for the Fourth Straight Year

November 1, 2018

Rates of three sexually transmitted diseases — syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia — have hit a record high for the fourth year in a row, the Centers for Disease Control announced Tuesday.

There were nearly 2.3 million diagnosed cases of the three STDs in 2017 based on preliminary data, the CDC said in a new report, an increase of over 200,000 from 2016.

Chlamydia continues to be the most commonly contracted disease, with over 1.7 million cases in 2017, an increase of more than 300,000 since 2013. Gonorrhea is next, with a 67 percent increase over those four years, from 333,004 cases to 555,608. And syphilis cases have gone up by 76 percent, from 17,375 to 30,644.

“We are sliding backward,” Dr. Jonathan Mermin, the director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, said in a press release. “It is evident the systems that identify, treat, and ultimately prevent STDs are strained to near-breaking point.”

The CDC said that the rising rates are likely because these STDs go undiagnosed and untreated, despite effective antibiotics. They said that the diseases are particularly prevalent in areas where socioeconomic issues like poverty, stigma, discrimination and drug use stop people from seeking treatment.

In a press conference cohosted by the CDC and other public health agencies, David Harvey, the executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, said that the Trump administration needs to take action.

“It is time that President Trump and [Health and Human Services] Secretary [Alex] Azar declare STDs in America a public health crisis,” Harvey said, according to CNN. “What goes along with that is emergency access to public health funding to make a dent in these STD rates and to bring these rates down and to ensure that all Americans get access to the health care that they need.”

The report shared additional concerns that gonorrhea may become untreatable, as the disease becomes resistant to the various antibiotics used over the years. The CDC said that a recent method to treat gonorrhea, with azithromycin, is going down in effectiveness. One percent of gonorrhea cases were resistant to the drug in 2013, and it has increased to 4 percent in 2017.

“We expect gonorrhea will eventually wear down our last highly effective antibiotic, and additional treatment options are urgently needed,” Dr. Gail Bolan, director of the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, said. “We can’t let our defenses down — we must continue reinforcing efforts to rapidly detect and prevent resistance as long as possible.”

The CDC said that STD screenings and swift treatment is necessary to end the rising rates. They’re advocating for better community education and outreach, and asking doctors to take more detailed sexual health histories from their patients and test for STDs with more than just simple urine tests. But Bolan acknowledged at the press conference that it will be tougher in the areas with higher STD rates because of socioeconomic issues and drug use.

“We know that we still have a long way to go,” Bolan said, according to TIME.


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