What is behind the spike in STDs?
According to a CDC report released recently, an increase in reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis is hitting teenagers and young adults hard. State and local budget cuts to STD care and prevention programs are the major cause in the surge of STDs.
Syphilis infections have been increasing at a troubling rate, according to the report. Men who engage in sex with men face a greater risk of contracting syphilis. Over 80 percent of male syphilis cases were reported among gay and bisexual males, and over 90 percent of all syphilis cases were shown in men. In 2015, 23,872 cases were reported, a 19 percent increase since 2014. Syphilis cases have been going up over the past decade, while the spike in cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea is more recent. There were 1.5 million cases of chlamydia – an increase of 13 percent, and over 395,000 cases of gonorrhea in 2015 – an increase of 6 percent. All three infections can be treated with antibiotics, though gonorrhea is becoming increasingly resistant.
According to a congressional briefing last April by Dr. Gail Bolan, the director for the CDC Division of STD Prevention, over 40 percent of health departments reduced clinic hours, screening, or tracing people who may have been infected.
“If that infrastructure gets eroded, people are more likely to have their STDs for a longer period of time, and that can lead to increased transmission,” Mermin says.
David Harvey, the executive director for the National Coalition of STD Directors said of the situation:
“We believe there’s a direct relationship between budget cuts and increases in STDs in the United States. There has been no federal increases for STD programs in this country since 2003,” he says.
Mermin says there needs to be a real investment in STD prevention so that clinics can monitor these diseases and quickly diagnose and treat people who are infected if there is to be a turnaround in this trend.
“We’ve seen success in the past where investments have paid off,” he says. “We know what we need to do. We just need to do it more effectively than we’ve been able to do with this eroding infrastructure.”