October 20, 2016
2 min read

Record number of STDs reported in US

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Last year, more STDs were reported in the United States than ever before, a troubling rise that federal health officials say is partly a result of budget cuts in state and local health departments.

Annual surveillance data from state and local levels showed an increase in all three nationally reportable STDs, the CDC announced. In total, there were 1,946,233 cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis reported in 2015 around the country — a record high.

Jonathan Mermin

The burden was particularly high in young people and gay and bisexual men.

“We have reached a decisive moment for the nation,” Jonathan Mermin, MD, MPH, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, said in a news release. “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.”

STDs cost the U.S. health care system nearly $16 billion each year, according to the CDC. Many cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are undiagnosed and unreported. Further, several STDs such as HPV and herpes simplex are not routinely reported at a national level, meaning the annual CDC captures only a fraction of the actual STDs cases around the country each year.

According to the CDC, in 2015:

  • Patients aged between 15 and 24 years accounted for nearly two-thirds of the more than 1.5 million cases of chlamydia and half of the nearly 400,000 cases of gonorrhea.
  • Men who have sex with men accounted for the majority of new gonorrhea and primary and secondary syphilis cases, and may face a higher risk of antibiotic resistant gonorrhea.
  • The rate of syphilis diagnosis among women rose more than 27% since 2014, and there was a 6% increase in congenital syphilis to 487 cases.

All three reportable diseases are curable with antibiotics and widespread access to screening and treatment can limit their spread. But budget cuts in over half of state and local STD programs have resulted in more than 20 health departments closing, the CDC said.

The rates of all three reportable diseases increased by at least 6%, including a 19% rise in primary and secondary syphilis.

“STD prevention resources across the nation are stretched thin, and we’re beginning to see people slip through the public health safety net,” Mermin said. “Turning the STD epidemics around requires bolstering prevention efforts and addressing new challenges — but the payoff is substantial in terms of improving health, reducing disparities and saving billions of dollars.” – by Gerard Gallagher


CDC. Sexually transmitted disease surveillance. 2015. http://www.cdc.gov/std/stats15/std-surveillance-2015-print.pdf. Accessed Oct. 19, 2016.

Disclosures: Mermin reports no relevant financial disclosures.