Issue: February 2021
Perspective from Gitanjali Pai, MD
Disclosures: Mermin and Romaguera report no relevant financial disclosures.
January 25, 2021
2 min read

Around 20% of people in US have an STI, CDC finds

Issue: February 2021
Perspective from Gitanjali Pai, MD
Disclosures: Mermin and Romaguera report no relevant financial disclosures.
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Data suggest that in 2018, around 20% of people in the United States had a sexually transmitted infection at some point, with almost half of new infections occurring among people aged between 15 and 24 years, CDC researchers reported.

“Proven STI prevention — at all levels — is a cornerstone of protecting America’s health, economic security, and wellness,” Raul A. Romaguera, DMD, MPH, acting director for CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, said in a press release. “There are significant human and financial costs associated with these infections, and we know from other studies that cuts in STI prevention efforts result in higher costs down the road. Preventing STIs could save billions in medical costs, but more importantly, prevention would improve the health and lives of millions of people.”

CDC researchers estimated prevalent and incident infections for gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, genital herpes, syphilis, HPV, sexually transmitted hepatitis B virus and sexually transmitted HIV.

According to the estimates, in 2018, there were approximately 68 million prevalent STIs — equaling around one-fifth of the total population of over 320 million — and around 26 million incident STIs. Additionally, 45.5% of incident STIs were in persons aged 15 to 24 years, the researchers reported.

A cost analysis showed that there was an estimated $16 billion in lifetime medical costs from STIs in 2018, with $13.7 billion of that total attributed to HIV. Additionally, $755 million of medical costs were attributed to HPV and more than $1 billion were attributed to syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia. Approximately 60% of the combined costs for syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia were in persons aged 15 to 24 years.

“The burden of STIs is staggering,” Jonathan Mermin, MD, MPH, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, said in the release. “At a time when STIs are at an all-time high, they have fallen out of the national conversation. Yet, STIs are a preventable and treatable national health threat with substantial personal and economic impact. There is an urgent need to reverse the trend of increasing STIs, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected many STI prevention services.”


CDC. CDC estimates 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have a sexually transmitted infection. Accessed January 25, 2021.