Sexually transmitted diseases [STDs] may not have the negative stigma they held in previous generations, but they are still a health problem which requires treatment and ongoing monitoring. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis typically dominate the STDs being monitored, but HIV/AIDS, HPV, Herpes simplex virus, and others are also included in this data.
In 2014, the US saw increases in all 3 nationally reported STDs: chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. This creates an annual cost of $6.5 billion in treatment costs.
STDs generally affect women and young people the most. Yet in the 2014 data released by the CDC and other monitoring outlets, the reason why STD rates increased nationally was directly related to the increasing rates of men suffering from these diseases.
The Increasing STD Demographics
- There has been a 27.5% increase in congenital syphilis since 2013, creating a rate of 11.6 cases per 100,000 live births.
- There were 1.4 million cases of chlamydia reported in 2014, representing a 2.8% increase in infection rates.
- The number of primary or secondary syphilis cases reported in 2014: 20,000. This represents a 15% increase.
- The numbers and rates of reported cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea continues to be highest among young people aged 15-24. 53% of gonorrhea cases and 65% of syphilis cases occur in the 15-24 age demographic.
- 1% of new STD cases occur in the 0-14 age demographic.
- Men account for more than 90% of all primary and secondary syphilis cases. Men with male sexual partners account for 83% of all new cases of this STD.
Although gay and bisexual men face the highest risks of STD transmission and account for many of the rising cases that are being monitored, there are other individual risk factors which place people at risk. Social, environmental, and economic factors also contribute to a person’s risk factors just as having multiple sexual partners does, whether one prefers the opposite gender or the same gender for intimacy. This is why STD screening is critical for everyone who is not in a long-term monogamous relationship and are sexually active.
Here Is Why STD Screening Is So Important
- Half of all people will have at least one STD or STI encounter over the course of their life.
- 19.7 million new STDs or STIs are diagnosed every year in the United States.
- 22 million people in the 15-24 age demographic have a prevalent sexually transmitted infection which requires ongoing treatment.
- In a national survey of US physicians, fewer than one-third routinely screened patients for STDs/STIs.
- Half of all Hepatitis B infections are sexually transmitted and this virus is 100x more infectious than HIV.
- Up to 20% of US citizens have genital herpes. As many as 90% of those who have this STD do not even realize they have it.
- With more than 50 million adults in the US with genital herpes and up to 776,000 new infections each year, some estimates suggest that by 2025 up to 40% of all men and half of all women could be infected.
- 14 million people acquire HPV every year and most people do not develop any symptoms despite being infected.
- 15% of all US women who are infertile can attribute it to tubal damage caused by pelvic inflammatory disease which was initiated by an STD.
So what is the cause of this increase in STD prevalence? It cannot just be associated with men who prefer to have sex with other men because the infection rates are staying consistent year after year in every other demographic. It is the fact that people are continuing to not use safe sex practices when they become intimate with someone. Consistent condom use doesn’t provide 100% protection against STD transmission, but it does provide a substantial amount of protection against the most common STDs and STIs that are transmitted. This is why sexual health education with facts like these must become part of our daily routines. Every age demographic is at risk for an STD.
Why STD Transmission Continues To Be A Problem
- 2 out of 3 young women believe that doctors routinely screen for common STDs like chlamydia. From 2003 data, however, only 30% of women in the 15-24 core age demographic received screenings with a commercial health care plan and only 45% of women on Medicaid received a screening.
- 3 million new cases of chlamydia are believed to occur every year.
- By the age of 50, it is believed that up to 80% of women will have acquired a genital HPV infection.
- 46% of American high school students have had sexual intercourse at least once before they graduate.
- 40% of teens do no report using condoms or other methods of protection during their most recent sexual encounter.
- It only takes 1 unsafe sexual encounter for someone to receive an STI or an STD which requires treatment.
- 75% of HIV infections in the 13-19 age demographic involve boys.
- 40% of teen girls have already had at least one STD which could cause an infertility issue or even death.
It is believed that up to 65 million US citizens could be living with an STD right now. This is an infection rate which leads the developed world. Even though it only costs $15 to treat a case of chlamydia, regular screenings are not taking place. This means the US is spending $2 billion on the complications of this STD instead of spending a fraction of that cost on routine screening and medication when necessary. Considering HIV is 5x more likely to be acquired when an STD like syphilis is active, until more people take action to protect their own health and get tested or doctors make this happen with a regular annual exam, then the infection rates are going to continue to be high.
What Can Stop An STD?
- The most effective way to stop an STD is to abstain from sexual contact.
- When condoms are being used, a condom must be present for every sexual act that takes place – not just intercourse.
- 11 out of the 13 national sexual education programs offered in public schools which focus on abstinence contain inaccurate or incorrect information about sexual health.
- HPV vaccines are available for men and women between the ages of 9-26.
The STD demographics prove that what the US has been trying to do when it comes to sexual education isn’t working. Young people are being given incomplete information, religiously motivated information, or downright inaccurate information to satisfy the personal needs of other groups. STD infection rates are high and continue to climb. Even having free access to protective items is not helping. It is time to take a different approach because unless something changes, anyone who is sexually active will be at a high risk of receiving an STD. Be tested regularly, seek treatment proactively, and use this information to ask questions to protect your health.