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October 2, 2017

More Americans report STIs than ever before, CDC reports

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The number of U.S. residents diagnosed with chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis in 2016 reached record highs, according to CDC report released Tuesday.

Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are curable sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but if left undiagnosed they can lead to serious health problems, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis have been rising in the United States since 2014, after years of declines, the Times reports. According to health officials, increasing STI rates reflect a decline in the use of condoms, a declining number of STI clinics in the country, and limited public awareness about the diseases.

CDC report shows rising STI rates

For the report, CDC researchers used official statistics on the reported occurrence of STIs in the United States, including data from national surveys and sentinel surveillance.

According to the report, U.S. residents in 2016 reported more than two million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis—a total that reached a record high for the second consecutive year. The researchers found the majority, about 1.6 million, of the cases involved chlamydia, with women under 30 representing more than 50 percent of chlamydia diagnoses in 2016, STAT News' "Morning Rounds" reports. 

In addition, the researchers found:

  • 468,514 gonorrhea cases were reported in 2016, representing an 18.5 percent increase from 2015;
  • 27,814 primary and secondary syphilis cases were reported in 2016, representing a 17.6 percent increase from 2015; and
  • 628 cases of congenital syphilis were reported in 2016, representing a 27.6 percent increase from 2015.

According to the report, growth rate in cases of gonorrhea in 2016 was higher among men, at 22.2 percent, than among women, at 13.8 percent. Meanwhile, the rate of syphilis increased by 18 percent among men between 2015 and 2016, as well as by 35.7 percent among women, and the rate of congenital syphilis increased by 28 percent among newborns.


Jonathan Mermin—director of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, [Sexually Transmitted Diseases], and TB Prevention—in a statement said, "Increases in ST[I]s are a clear warning of a growing threat." He added, "ST[I]s are a persistent enemy, growing in number, and outpacing our ability to respond."

Gail Bolan, director of CDC's sexually transmitted diseases prevention division, said the increase in the number of gonorrhea cases reported among U.S. residents is particularly concerning because strains of the disease have become resistant to antibiotics. Bolan said, "We're down to our last class of antibiotics that we have available to treat gonorrhea." She added, "We want to make sure we keep the threat of these potentially resistant strains at a low level" (Karlamangla, Los Angeles Times, 9/26; Thielking, "Morning Rounds," STAT News, 9/27; CDC report, accessed 9/28).

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