In 2015, new diagnoses of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) reached a record high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This marks the second straight year with an increase. Prior to 2014, rates of STDs had been declining.
Chlamydia, which can damage a woman’s reproductive system and make it difficult to get pregnant when left untreated, increased by almost six percent, to a record of more than 1.5 million new diagnoses in the United States.
The number of gonorrhea diagnoses increased to almost 400,000 in 2015, which represents an increase of almost 13 percent over 2014.
The increase in syphilis cases dwarfed the rise in chlamydia and gonorrhea, spiking by 19 percent. In 2015, close to 24,000 people were newly diagnosed with syphilis. Untreated syphilis can cause blindness or stroke. For women who are pregnant, it can result in miscarriage or stillbirth.
Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are the three most reported types of STDs. Other types, such as HPV, herpes, and trichomoniasis, are not tracked by federal health officials; therefore, the number of diagnoses for these are not available.
Who is at risk?
Everyone who is sexually active is at risk for developing an STD; however, there are some groups of people who are more at risk.
Young people between the ages of 15 and 24 made up two-thirds of new diagnoses of chlamydia and one-half of gonorrhea diagnoses.
Men at risk
Men who have sex with men are also in a high-risk group. They accounted for the majority of both gonorrhea and syphilis cases.
Reasons for increase?
What is causing the increase in STDs? The CDC reported that one-half of all state and local community health centers across the country have closed their STD clinics due to budget cuts, leaving many people with reduced access to diagnosis and treatment.
Harder to treat STDs
Gonorrhea is also getting progressively harder to treat. The bacterium that causes gonorrhea is becoming resistant to the antibiotics commonly used to treat it, according to the CDC.
Don’t know you have it
Many people experience no symptoms of STDs and are not aware that they have them and can infect others. Most doctors do not do routine screening for STDs.
What it will take to turn trend around
It’s going to take a group effort to turn this trend around. Of course, it is important for everyone to practice safer sex by using a condom every time and having regular screenings. Practicing mutual monogamy greatly reduces the risk of developing an STD.
What doctors can do
Doctors can help by making STD screening a part of their standard medical care and offering regular screenings. STD education should be included in routine medical visits.
CDC suggests this
The CDC suggests that STD prevention and treatment should be included in prenatal and routine visits for all pregnant women.
What else can be done?
Community health organizations should work to expand access to diagnosis and treatment, and the government and other private organizations should continue their study on adverse health complications and better methods of prevention and diagnosis.
Keep conversation about STDs open
Everyone needs to keep the conversation about STDs out in the open. Talk to your partner, parents, children, and medical providers. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and search for answers. Don’t be afraid to insist that your health is important.