Thursday, October 27, 2016

Sexually Transmitted Diseases Surge to a National 20-Year High

New data released show the highest combined rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea,and syphilis (STDs) in the U.S. in 20 years,reports the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). Annually, there are 20 million new STD cases, costing the U.S. health care system $16 billion. Rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis increased significantly for the third year in a row, reaching a 20-year high. The long-term health consequences posed by STDs are serious and often irreversible, especially if not diagnosed and treated early. Young people ages 15-24 and gay and bisexual men are at highest risk for STDs. Young people face unique barriers to services, including stigma, confidentiality concerns, and limited access to expert STD providers.

STDs can lead to chronic pelvic pain, infertility, and ectopic pregnancy. A pregnant woman can pass STDs on to her baby, leading to serious disabilities or death in the infant. STDs increase the risk for acquiring HIV, especially men who have sex with men, undoing the gains that have been made in HIV prevention and care. For more information on National trends, please see the recently released STD Report at

Colorado is also experiencing historically high rates of STDs, although at lower rates of disease than the national trends. • There were significant increases in chlamydia. The number of male cases has increased over time, but females remained disproportionately impacted and have a rate twice that of males. • Gonorrhea also significantly increased for the second year in a row. Males continue to be disproportionately impacted by gonorrhea in Colorado, but the state is seeing increases in the number of female cases, particularly in 15-24-year-olds.

October 26, 2016 | Volume 16, Issue 43
Syphilis rates have also increased since 2014, accounting for an over 200 percent increase in this disease since 2006. Ninety-eight percent of primary and secondary syphilis occurs in men, in particular men who have sex with men.

Different than national trends, Colorado has not had a congenital syphilis case reported since 2007. Continued vigilance of testing pregnant women and testing and treating men who have syphilis will keep this trend consistent into the coming years.

An effective national and local response to the current STD epidemic will require engagement from many.  Providers should make STD screening a standard part of medical care, especially in pregnant women. With insurance coverage at an all-time high, there are also more opportunities to integrate STD prevention and treatment into prenatal care and other routine visits.

Individuals can talk openly about STDs, get tested regularly, and reduce their risk by using condoms or practicing mutual monogamy if they are sexually active. Parents and providers can have honest conversations with young people about STD prevention.  State and local health departments should continue to direct resources to those hardest hit by the STD epidemic and
work with community partners to maximize their impact.

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