Rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis in the United States have never been higher. That's according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report issued in October 2016. And it’s a trend that doesn’t just affect a younger crowd.
According to the report, in 2015 more than 1.5 million new cases of chlamydia, almost 400,000 new cases of gonorrhea, and about 24,000 cases of primary and secondary syphilis were reported in the U.S. Together, these three STDs are now the most commonly reported medical issue in the country.
The CDC previously reported significant increases in sexually transmitted infections in people over 65 between 2010 and 2014, though research suggests sexually transmitted infections remain significantly less common in older adults than in the younger population. Among older adults, men who have sex with men face some of the greatest risks for STDs.
As bad as the recent findings sound, the reality is likely even worse. Many cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, as well as other sexually transmitted infections like HPV (human papillomavirus), herpes (HSV), and trichomoniasis go undiagnosed and/or unreported each year.
Although STD rates have declined in recent years, 2015 was the second consecutive year in which reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis increased.
One important reason for the alarming increase in STDs, according to the CDC, is a loss of funding for state and local prevention programs and clinics. Over the past few years, more than half of these programs in the U.S. have experienced significant budget cuts, and more than 20 clinics have closed.
Sexual health is an important component of overall health. While routine STD screening is not recommended for all older adults, you should discuss testing with your doctor if you have certain risk factors for STDS (you have new or multiple partners, you’re a man who has sex with men, for example).
Access to reliable information about STD prevention including safer sex practices—as well as screening and treatment can help reduce the spread of sexually transmitted infections.