WASHINGTON – In 2016, Americans were infected with more than 2 million new cases of gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia, the highest number of these sexually transmitted diseases ever reported, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.
“Clearly we need to reverse this disturbing trend,” said Dr. Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention. “The CDC cannot do this alone and we need every community in America to be aware that this risk is out there and help educate their citizens on how to avoid it.”
The agency’s annual Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report shows that more than 1.6 million of the new cases were from chlamydia, 470,000 were from gonorrhea and nearly 28,000 cases were of primary and secondary syphilis. Secondary syphilis is the most contagious form of the disease, according to the CDC. While all of these can be cured by antibiotics, many people go undiagnosed and untreated.
Only those three STDs are required by law to be reported to the CDC by physicians. When you include HIV, herpes and more of the dozens of diseases which can be transmitted sexually but which are not tracked, the CDC estimates there are more than 20 million new cases of STDs in the United States each year. At least half occur in young people ages 15 to 24.
“STDs are out of control with enormous health implications for Americans,” said David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors. The coalition represents state, local and territorial health departments who focus on preventing STDs.
“If not treated, gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis can have serious consequences, such as infertility, neurological issues, and an increased risk for HIV,” said Harvey.
Bolan and Harvey both point to funding deficits as a huge part of the reason STDs are on the rise.
“Several factors are fueling the STD epidemic,” Harvey said. “Funding cutbacks for prevention, education and healthcare programs, an on-going debate about sex education for young people, with cutbacks in that arena, particularly from this administration, and a rise in social media dating apps have all contributed to the rise.”
Another reason is the lack of symptoms for these diseases and a failure of practitioners to educate their patients on what to look for. To counter the problem, the CDC has recently published a provider guide for physicians and is creating a network of clinical training centers for doctors.