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CDC: Reported STI cases continue to rise

There were more diagnoses of three sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among U.S. residents in 2015 than in any previous year, according to a report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the New York Times reports.

All three STIs -- gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia -- can be treated with antibiotics, but the majority of cases remain undiagnosed, which can lead to infertility and other health issues, the Times reports (Goodnough, New York Times, 10/19). CDC officials estimated that the annual cost of treatment for the three STIs is about $16 billion (Smith, MedPage Today, 10/19).

Overall, officials estimate that about 20 million cases of STIs occur annually in the United States (Stobbe, AP/Washington Post, 10/19).

STI rates

Overall, CDC officials said there were more than 1.8 million cases of gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia reported last year. According to CDC, chlamydia rates increased by 5.9 percent to about 1.5 million cases; gonorrhea rates increased by 12.8 percent to about 400,000 cases; and primary and secondary syphilis rates increased by 19 percent to about 24,000 cases.

The data showed that chlamydia rates disproportionately increased among people ages 15 to 24, who accounted for two-thirds of diagnosed chlamydia cases in 2015, and among black men and women (MedPage Today, 10/19). Further, officials said while chlamydia disproportionately affects women, the rate of diagnosed chlamydia cases increased more sharply among men in 2015 (New York Times, 10/19).

The data also showed that about half of gonorrhea cases occurred among people ages 15 to 24 (MedPage Today, 10/19). According to the Times, gonorrhea has disproportionately affected the black community in the past, but rates have increased among the white community and other ethnic groups over the past few years (New York Times, 10/19).

Meanwhile, most syphilis cases -- about 82 percent -- occurred among men who have sex with men (Branswell, STAT News, 10/19). However, the data showed that the rate of syphilis diagnosis increased by 27 percent among women, while the diagnosis rate of congenital syphilis -- when the infection is passed from a pregnant woman to the fetus -- increased by 6 percent.

In terms of geography, the data showed greater increases in STI rates in the West than in other areas of the country. According to CDC, the overall number of diagnosed gonorrhea cases doubled in Montana in 2015, while California reported a 28 percent increase in the number of reported syphilis cases.

Meanwhile, the highest overall rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea are still found in the South. Louisiana reported the highest rates of gonorrhea and syphilis, while California and Louisiana reported the highest number of infants born with syphilis (New York Times, 10/19).


CDC officials said the increase could be partly attributed to better testing and diagnosis (AP/Washington Post, 10/19). However, officials also said there are fewer public health systems aimed at preventing STIs (MedPage Today, 10/19). According to CDC, many states in recent years have cut STI program budgets and over the course of only one year, more than 20 STI facilities closed.

Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, said, "ST[I] rates are rising, and many of the country's systems for preventing ST[I]s have eroded. We must mobilize, rebuild and expand services -- or the human and economic burden will continue to grow."

He added, "Turning the ST[I] 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" (STAT News, 10/19).