Federal health officials said Tuesday that new cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis spiked nearly 10 percent in 2017, continuing a four-year trend of rising sexually-transmitted diseases fueled by lack of awareness and changing sexual behavior.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that 2.29 million new cases of these three common yet treatable sexually-transmitted diseases were diagnosed in 2017.
The number of new STD cases have continued a “steep, sustained increase” since 2013, CDC reported. The rise in cases — now at record levels — comes as the federal budget has not increased STD program funding since 2013, leaving local health departments scrambling to address the problem with fewer resources.
“There is a shocking increase in STDs in America,” said David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors. “We think there is a direct correlation between the increase in the number of STDs,” and the lack of federal funding increases.
From 2016 to 2017, cases of primary and secondary syphilis grew more than 10 percent, chlamydia increased nearly 7 percent and gonorrhea surged nearly 19 percent, according to preliminary CDC figures released Tuesday.
Left untreated, these infections can result in infertility, pregnancy complications or increase the risk of HIV transmission.
Federal health officials are particularly troubled by the 67 percent jump in gonorrhea cases since 2013 because the bacterial infection has become resistant to all antibiotics except ceftriaxone.
Public health officials in England this year reported a man contracted gonorrhea that resisted the commonly prescribed drug combination of ceftriaxone and azithromycin.
Public health officials expect that super-resistant strain will emerge in the U.S.
“We will have drug resistant gonorrhea in the United States,” Harvey said. “It’s going to happen. It is not a question of if but when.”
Since 2015, the CDC has recommended a single shot of ceftriaxone be combined with an oral dose of azithromycin to treat people with gonorrhea.
Although this two-drug combination has not yet failed in the U.S., the CDC said that lab testing confirms that resistance to azithromycin has increased from 1 percent of cases is 2013 to more than 4 percent in 2017. Azithromycin has been used to stall resistance to ceftriaxone.
Experts said many factors have led to the increase in STDs, including a lack of awareness about the seriousness of infection and changing sexual behavior. Medical technology such as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, a daily medication used to reduce the risk of HIV transmission, have prompted some to no longer use condoms.
Young adults may not fear HIV transmission as the once-deadly virus has become more of a chronic condition that can be managed with medication. Some appear more willing to engage in risky, unprotected sex, which has led to the spread of preventable STDs, officials said.
“We are sliding backward,” Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, said in a statement. “It is evident the systems that identify, treat, and ultimately prevent STDs are strained to near-breaking point.”
Read or Share this story: https://usat.ly/2BWJywE