Total combined cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis reported in 2015 reached the highest number ever, according to the annual Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
There were more than 1.5 million chlamydia cases reported, nearly 400,000 cases of gonorrhea, and nearly 24,000 cases of primary and secondary syphilis. The largest increase in cases reported from 2014 to 2015 occurred in syphilis, at 19 percent, followed by gonorrhea, at 12.8 percent, and chlamydia, at 5.9 percent. These three STDs are the most commonly reported conditions in the nation and have reached a record high level.
Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are curable with antibiotics, and widespread access to screening and treatment would reduce their spread. Most STD cases continue to go undiagnosed and untreated, putting individuals at risk for severe and often irreversible health consequences, including infertility, chronic pain and increased risk for HIV. STDs also impose a substantial economic burden: CDC estimates STD cases cost the U.S. healthcare system nearly $16 billion each year.
“We have reached a decisive moment for the nation,” said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention in a press 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.”
CDC officials said recent years more than half of state and local STD programs have experienced budget cuts, resulting in more than 20 health department STD clinic closures in one year alone. Fewer clinics mean reduced access to STD testing and treatment for those who need these services.
Young people and gay and bisexual men continue to face the greatest risk of becoming infected with an STD, and there continue to be troubling increases in syphilis among newborns.
“The health outcomes of syphilis – miscarriage, stillbirth, blindness or stroke – can be devastating,” Dr. Gail Bolan, Director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, said. “The resurgence of congenital syphilis and the increasing impact of syphilis among gay and bisexual men makes it clear that many Americans are not getting the preventive services they need. Every pregnant woman should be tested for syphilis, and sexually active gay and bisexual men should be tested for syphilis at least once a year.”