Guide Your Teens Because these Sexually Transmitted Diseases Are on the Rise
Rates of Sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia are on the rise and shockingly, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) about 10 million of the 20 million cases are between the ages of 15-24.
Many infections occur shortly after a person becomes sexually active. Some people will be asymptomatic or have mild symptoms so that by the time of diagnosis permanent damage has already been done. Often these STDs, especially chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and render women infertile. What exacerbates the problem is government funding cuts to public health departments. As many as 7% of health departments have closed their STD clinics due to budget cuts and this lack of healthcare access may cause a delay in diagnosis and treatment as well as increased infections in partners of those having unprotected sex.
The statistics released by the CDC were as follows:
• More than 1.4 million cases of chlamydia were reported in 2014 — the highest number of cases of any disease ever reported to the CDC.
• Just under 20,000 cases of syphilis were reported in 2014, the highest rate since 1994 and a 15 percent increase over 2013, the CDC said.
• 458 cases of syphilis were reported in newborn babies in 2014 — a startling 27.5 percent increase over 2013.
• More than 350,000 cases of gonorrhea were reported in 2014, up 5 percent from 2013.
“These numbers are alarming” said Dr. Gail Bolen, Director, Division of STD Prevention, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB. “These numbers are conservative since many cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis continue to go undiagnosed and unreported, and data on several additional STDs — such as human papillomavirus, herpes simplex virus, and trichomoniasis — are not routinely reported.
Why the increases?
Bolen cites several reasons for the increased number of cases of STDs – younger people are engaging in risky behavior including those with HIV because new drugs used to treat the virus give patients a false sense of security that it is no longer a deadly disease or that they will infect another person during sexual activity. But that does not lessen the transmission or syphilis, or gonorrhea. And older people have less fear of dying or infecting someone because of the new HIV cocktails so they are not using protection or using it less often.
A recent year-long study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that among 437 high risk people (gay and bisexual men) who completed the study using a pre-exposure prophylactic (PrEP) drug called Truvada and did not use protection during sexual activity, only 2 contracted HIV. While the drug had a high prevention rate for HIV it does not prevent other STDs like syphilis or gonorrhea.
Bolen also remarked that “Most recently, there have been significant erosion of state and local STD control programs. Most people don't recognize that the direct clinical care of individuals with sexually transmitted diseases is supported by state and local funds and federal funds." The Illinois Public Health Departments which had previously been responsible for paying the cost of STD testing at over 100 jails recently stopped.
Figures show that in one year 7 percent of health departments had to close their STD clinics and another 43 percent decreased hours of operation in order to save money. Still other raised fees and copays which has proven to be a deterrent to people getting tested.
While figures may indeed be conservative in some types of STD’s Bolen claims chlamydia reporting has improved and may account for higher numbers in the statistical analysis.
Prevention of STDs among younger people is a key priority for the CDC. They encourage not only prevention but timely treatment for exposed sexual partners (without a prior medical exam where legally possible) of patients diagnosed with chlamydia or gonorrhea. Their intent is to recommend effective treatment options and assist in providing resources to state and local public health departments to further support prevention efforts.