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 today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
There were more than 1.5 million chlamydia cases reported (1,526,658), nearly 400,000 cases of gonorrhea (395,216), and nearly 24,000 cases of primary and secondary (P&S) syphilis (23,872) – the most infectious stages of the disease. The largest increase in cases reported from 2014 to 2015 occurred in P&S syphilis (19 percent), followed by gonorrhea (12.8 percent) and chlamydia (5.9 percent). Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are the three most commonly reported conditions in the nation and have reached a record high level.
“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.”
In 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.
Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are curable with antibiotics. 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.
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.”
The 2015 data show:
- Americans ages 15 to 24 years old accounted for nearly two-thirds of chlamydia diagnoses and half of gonorrhea diagnoses.
- Men who have sex with men (MSM) accounted for the majority of new gonorrhea and P&S syphilis cases (82 percent of male cases with known gender of sex partner). Antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea may be higher among MSM.
- Women’s rate of syphilis diagnosis increased by more than 27 percent from 2014 to 2015. Reported congenital syphilis (which occurs when the infection is transmitted from a pregnant woman to her baby) increased by 6 percent. Women still account for less than 10 percent of new P&S syphilis infections.
To prevent and control STDs, CDC provides support to state and local health departments for disease surveillance, contact tracing and health promotion, and other critical services. CDC also issues and maintains testing and treatment guidelines for providers so individuals get the most effective care. Maintaining and strengthening these and other STD prevention systems will be essential to respond to the recent increases.
“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.”