How effective has Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) information been in preventing new infections? Not very effective, it seems. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), STDs are at an all-time high. This new information comes at a time when there are rising concerns over increasing antibiotic resistance, which actually makes the problem even more complex. Despite an overall improvement in access to condoms and clearer information about STDs, new STD cases are rising at an alarming rate. As far as prevention goes, we’re on a downward spiral.
The exact cause of these record-breaking numbers is anyone’s guess. There are several contributing factors that could help make sense of the alarming rate of new STD infections.
- A rise in the number of dating/hookup apps: Dating apps promote promiscuity and risky sexual behavior, which helps explain the rising number of STD cases. These apps make casual sex with many partners more easily accessible than ever before. This in turn exposes individuals who use these apps to a higher risk of catching an STD. Dating/hookup apps encourage frequent, often nearly anonymous encounters with many partners, which puts everyone involved at risk.
- Drug use: Studies show a direct link between drug abuse and the rise in new cases of STD infections. Risky behavior is common among drug users, and so are sexually transmitted diseases.
- Poor funding: Poor funding has made the CDC incapable of employing effective STD prevention strategies. As a result, public health education campaigns aiming to spread STD information, testing, and treatment options have become less accessible.
- Shutting down of publicly-funded STD clinics: Fewer people are able to access the care they need. Instead, they show up to health facilities that may not have the expertise or resources to make correct diagnoses.
The CDC reports that out of 1.7 million chlamydia cases in 2017, 45% are women between ages 15 and 24. A majority of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis cases go left untreated because they are often asymptomatic. This can cause an increase in the likelihood of contracting HIV, pregnancy complications, and even infertility.
STDs by the Numbers
The CDC reported a record-breaking 2.3 million new cases of gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis in 2017. This was an increase of 200,000 new cases compared to 2016. That figure represents a 10% increase in new STD infections from a record-setting 2.1 million in 2016. It is important to note that the report doesn’t include HIV. The CDC’s STD information for 2017 includes:
- 87,000 new cases of gonorrhea, pushing the number up to 555,608 cases
- An increase from 27,814 cases of primary and secondary syphilis in 2016 to 30,644 cases in 2017
- A whopping 1.7 million cases of chlamydia in 2017, compared to 1.6 million cases in 2016
The numbers are undoubtedly worrisome. When put into greater perspective, it only gets worse; for instance, gonorrhea infections have risen by 67% since 2013. In the same period, the percentage of cases reported in men has doubled. Syphilis cases have shot up 76% in gay men, while infection rates in women have also risen. The good news is these sexually transmitted diseases are now treatable using available antibiotics. The bad news is that over time they have become more resistant to many of the drugs used to treat these STDs.
Antibiotic Resistance, A Cause For Concern?
STD information from studies conducted in 105 countries shows discouraging conclusions. The strain of bacteria known to cause gonorrhea is increasingly becoming resistant to most antibiotics. Unless new antibiotics are discovered, it is only a matter of time before we run out of options. Presently, treatment for gonorrhea entails a dual approach where ceftriaxone is prescribed alongside a second oral antibiotic, azithromycin. Ceftriaxone may be our last hope at beating gonorrhea, because azithromycin only delays the bacteria’s resistance to ceftriaxone.
In 2013, studies found that gonorrhea was developing resistance to azithromycin. The data showed that up to 1% of all samples demonstrated resistance to the drug. Five years later, over 4% showed resistance. The concern is that eventually we will have a strain of gonorrhea that is entirely antibiotic-resistant, and impossible to treat with any of our current medications.
Here’s What You Can Do
All is not lost. Better prevention and healthcare can go a long way in dealing with the increasing rate of STD infections. Arm yourself with STD information, and do the responsible thing - always practice safe sex. Condoms (when properly used) are the only form of contraception that offer protection against STDs. Be an ambassador of responsible sexual behavior among your peers. Get tested often - don’t worry about what people think, because you’re doing the right thing. Make a commitment to ending the spread of STDs.
10 sexually-responsible people who use condoms will have no real effect on the STD rate. But one risky person who doesn’t use condoms can introduce a multiplier effect into the whole equation.
STDs carry an enormous stigma, which shouldn’t be the case because almost anyone can contract one. There is a ton of STD information available on the internet - educate yourself and learn how you can protect yourself and your partners.
Now that you know how bad the STD problem in America is, take a step and protect yourself and those around you. Grab a pack of P.S. condoms and live your best life, worry-free.