Budget cut driven clinic closures in states across the country led to record high reports of sexually transmitted diseases in 2015, new data shows.
Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis – the three most commonly reported conditions in the nation – have all reached a record high level because fewer people have had access to testing and treatment, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released Wednesday.
“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. “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.”
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 in 2015.
All three diseases are curable with antibiotics, but most STD cases are undiagnosed and untreated, according to the CDC. Untreated STDs can cause infertility, chronic pain and increased risk for HIV.
“The health outcomes of syphilis – miscarriage, stillbirth, blindness or stroke – can be devastating,” said Dr. Gail Bolan, Director of the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention. “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.”
Americans aged 15 to 24 years old are particularly at risk; they accounted for nearly two-thirds of chlamydia diagnoses and half of gonorrhea diagnoses.
The CDC is recommending STD screening as a standard part of medical care. Transmission could also be cut down if people communicated more openly about STDs, according to the CDC.
“STD prevention resources across the nation are stretched thin, and we’re beginning to see people slip through the public health safety net,” said Dr. Mermin. “Turning the STD epidemics around requires bolstering prevention efforts and addressing new challenges – but the payoff is substantial in terms of improving health, reducing disparities and saving billions of dollars.”