STDs at Record High as Treatment Programs Wane, CDC Warns

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October 19, 2016

The combined number of cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis hit a record high in 2015, even as the number of state and local programs for treating sexually transmitted diseases decreases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced today.

"We have reached a decisive moment for the nation," said Jonathan Mermin, MD, MPH, director of the CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, 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."

According to the agency's annual report titled Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance 2015 there were more than 1.5 million reported cases of chlamydia last year. That represented a rate of 479 cases per 100,000 people, an increase of 5.9% since 2014. The number of gonorrhea cases approached 400,000, or 124 per 100,000, an increase of 12.8%.

Primary and secondary (P&S) syphilis spiked even more. There were 24,000 reported cases, or eight per 100,000, 19% higher than last year.

People aged 15 to 24 years are particularly at risk in the STD epidemic. Half of last year's gonorrhea cases and 65% of the chlamydia cases fell into this age bracket.

Men who have sex with men (MSM) are experiencing the worst of the rising syphilis rate. Ninety percent of P&S cases in 2015 occurred in men, and MSM accounted for 82% of male cases when the partner's sex was known.

While STDs are burgeoning, public health defenses are weakening. The CDC pointed to recent budget cuts in more than half of state and local STD programs, with more than 20 STD clinics closing their doors in one year. "Fewer clinics mean reduced access to STD testing and treatment for those who need these services," the agency said.

STD testing is imperative for pregnant women, especially in light of a resurgence in congenital syphilis, according to the CDC. The rate of congenital syphilis in newborns rose 6% last year to 12 per 100,000 live births.

More information on today's announcement is available on the CDC website.

Follow Robert Lowes on Twitter @LowesRobert

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