US reports record number of STDs for 6th straight year
The United States reported more than 2.5 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in 2019, setting a record for STDs for a sixth consecutive year, the CDC said.
“Less than 20 years ago, gonorrhea rates in the U.S. were at historic lows, syphilis was close to elimination and advances in chlamydia diagnostics made it easier to detect infections,” Raul Romaguera, DMD, MPH, acting director of the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, said in a press release. “That progress has since unraveled, and our STD defenses are down. We must prioritize and focus our efforts to regain this lost ground and control the spread of STDs.”
The newly released 2019 STD Surveillance Report, which was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, showed that the U.S. experienced another increase from the 2.4 million STD cases reported in 2018. The sharpest increase was observed in congenital syphilis, the incidence of which has nearly quadrupled since 2015, according to the CDC.
According to the report, data showed that STD rates were five to eight times higher among African American or Black people than among non-Hispanic white people, and rates among American Indian or Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander people were three to five times higher than rates among non-Hispanic white people. Hispanic or Latino people were one to two times more likely to experience an STD than non-Hispanic white people.
Additionally, gay and bisexual men and younger people also faced an increased burden. According to the report, gay and bisexual men made up nearly half of all 2019 primary and secondary syphilis cases and had gonorrhea rates that were 42 times higher than heterosexual men in some areas, whereas people aged 15 to 24 years accounted for 61% of chlamydia cases and 42% of gonorrhea cases.
“Focusing on hard-hit populations is critical to reducing disparities,” Jo Valentine, MSW, associate director of the Office of Health Equity in CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, said in the press release. “To effectively reduce these disparities, the social, cultural, and economic conditions that make it more difficult for some populations to stay healthy must be addressed. These include poverty, unstable housing, drug use, lack of medical insurance or regular medical provider, and high burden of STDs in some communities.”
According to the CDC, preliminary data from 2020 suggest that many of the trends continued into 2020, when much of the country experienced major disruptions to STD testing and treatment services because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“STDs will not wait for the pandemic to end, so we must rise to the challenge now,” Romaguera said. “These new data should create a sense of urgency and mobilize the resources needed, so that future reports can tell a different story.”