The Grapevine

Sexually Transmitted Infections In US Diagnosed At Record High, CDC Says

It was recently revealed that sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are on the rise for the fourth year in a row in the United States — particularly syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia which hit record high rates.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) presented the preliminary data at the National STD Prevention Conference in Washington on Aug. 28.

When comparing the combined rates of the three infections, an estimated 2.3 million cases were diagnosed in 2017. This figure was found to be 200,000 higher than the previous record set in 2016. 

When comparing the numbers from 2013 to 2017, the rise is evident. Gonorrhea diagnoses increased by 67 percent while syphilis diagnoses increased by 76 percent. Chlamydia, which is the most common condition reported to the CDC, also saw an increase with over 1.7 million cases diagnosed in 2017.

"I think over the last five years, we've seen a rapid increase in the prevalence of STIs in the US, and we're also starting to see a plateau in our fight against the HIV epidemic, as well," said Rob Stephenson, director of the Center for Sexuality and Health Disparities at the University of Michigan.

But what is the reason for this concerning trend? Experts find it rather hard to narrow it down, citing a variety of possible contributors.

Alison Marshall, a clinical expert at the Sylvie Ratelle STD/HIV prevention center in New England, said certain factors today may actually end up prompting riskier sexual behaviors in some cases. Medical advances, for instance, have come a long way from the days when AIDS was a "death sentence," she stated. 

On the other hand, the influence of dating apps like Tinder and Grindr is debated. Some have found an association between their use and the rise in cases of syphilis, but researchers are quick to note that correlation does not imply causation.

And despite the increase in diagnoses, people who spread STIs are often unaware of the fact that they are infected. Cuts to federal funding in reproductive care at both local and state levels can pose a threat here, especially when it involves proposals to defund Planned Parenthood and emphasize abstinence programs instead.

"My concern is that if we're doing away with funding for women's health care and threatening places like Planned Parenthood, which provide STD screenings, many women won't have access to screenings and treatment," said Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, a clinical professor at the Yale School of Medicine.

Apart from engaging in responsible and correct use of condoms, people are encouraged to get tested if they have sexual contact with multiple partners. And since coverage varies by insurance plan, it is advisable to speak to a healthcare provider to find out more about screening options.