People reported to suffer from one or more sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the US was at an all-time high in 2016.
According to federal experts STI rates started skyrocketing in 2014 and have continued to take an upward trend.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers said that there were over 2 million cases of gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia reported in 2016. Chlamydia was reported to have the highest new infection prevalence with 1.6 million cases.
Syphilis came in second with an increase of 18% in new infections. Most cases were reported among men who have sex with men (MSMs). Syphilis cases had also gone up among women and babies born with syphilis. The number of new infections rose by 36% and 28% in 2016 among women and babies respectively.
There was also an increase in gonorrhea cases among men and women in the US. This STD is of particular concern because gonorrhea is increasingly becoming resistant to treatment.
Rampant Lack of Testing
Though all three STIs can be treated using antibiotics, most people don’t get treated because they do not go for STD testing. Untreated STDs can cause worse health issued such as infertility.
According to the CDC guidelines every woman who is sexually active and is under the age of 25 as well as any woman with STD risk factors such as multiple sexual partners should be tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea annually. They should also go for yearly HIV testing.
MSMs are also advised to get tested at least once a year for chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhoea as well HIV. men with risk factors including multiple sex partners should be tested every three or six months.
Causes of Increased STD Rates
A few factors have been suggested for the rampant STD cases. The first reason is that use of condom during sex has gone down among the MSMs. This is because there has been high success of treating and even preventing HIV with ARTs thus making unprotected sex less scary.
The second reason is that there are new populations that are now being infected with STDs that in the past were not traditionally affected such as babies. With more women getting syphilis today, more babies are in turn being born with the infection because the mothers don’t get tested and therefore, go untreated.
The syphilis bacteria then gets into their bloodstream and the to the babies via the placenta. Syphilis in babies is a very serious infection that can cause neonatal deaths, stillbirths or blindness.
Another factor is that there is a rise in dating apps making sex more available. The fact that most of these sites allow people to interact anonymously makes it more difficult for people to discuss their sexual health before they engage in sex increasing their risk of getting infected.
Most of these STDs, including chlamydia, are very difficult to detect because they do not show symptoms. This then raises the need for better methods for detection and screening otherwise many people go untreated as they are not aware that they are sick in the first place.
There have also been cuts to funding for public health services therefore, STD clinics are now fewer. For instance, in 2012 public health facilities received just 3% of the health budget.
Most people prefer to go to STD clinics for testing instead of going to hospitals or talking about it with their family doctors. Fewer clinics then means that more people have a harder time accessing them. Such people abandon testing all together increasing risk of spreading the infections if they are already infected.