Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its annual Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report, the details of which are alarming. The press release from the CDC regarding the report stated that there was a record high of nearly 2.5 million reported cases of sexually transmitted diseases in the United States in 2018. This marks the fifth year of increases in reported cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), which the CDC considers only a fraction of the epidemic.
The three most commonly reported STDs reported were syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. Syphilis accounted for more than 115,000 cases; gonorrhea increased to more than 580,000 reported cases; chlamydia increased to more than 1.8 million cases. The CDC notes that newborns, women, and gay and bisexual men are more vulnerable to the risk of disease.
The most distressing detail from the report is the 40% rise in congenital syphilis cases, of which Texas, California, Florida, Arizona, and Louisiana accounted for 70%. According to the CDC’s report, from 2017 to 2018, there were 33 cases of syphilis among newborns per 100,000 live births. Untreated syphilis in pregnant mothers can lead to fetal or infant death, premature birth, and physical and mental disabilities in those infants who are born and contract the infection. The CDC advises pregnant women to undergo syphilis testing as part of their prenatal care.
Why are sexually transmitted diseases still on the rise? The CDC cites several factors for the continued increase in infections, including drug use, poverty, stigma, and unstable housing. State and local cuts to STD awareness programs in recent years are also cited as factors contributing to the rise in documented cases. The CDC reports that more than half of local programs had budget cuts, which can lead to clinic closures, reduce amounts of screening, staff loss, and reduced patient communication.
The Mayo Clinic News Network released an article discussing the report featuring Dr. Gregory Poland—the clinic’s director of Vaccine Research Group. Dr. Poland states, “these infections can be life-changing. There are complications to these. Some are incurable, and, so, people have to take appropriate precautions and not think that casual sex is without complication or concern.” Dr. Poland discusses the crisis in the video below.