STDs hit an all-time record high

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STDs hit an all-time record high

The year 2016 will go down as the year the United States hit an all-time high in the number of sexually transmitted disease (STD).  This news came from an eye-opening annual report on STDs from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finding that there were 1.6 million cases of chlamydia, 470,000 cases of gonorrhea and 28,000 cases of syphilis reported for last year. 

Typically we may assume an increase in STDs would be primarily among teenagers and young adults – they’re young, naïve, and may not be taking necessary precautions preventing an STD.  But this is not the case. American teens are delaying sexual relationships until they are older. Just a few months ago, new research showed that only 42 percent of female teens had had sex at least once, compared to 51 percent in 1988.  For teenage boys, that number fell more significantly from 60 percent in 1988 to 44 percent.  Another huge bit of good news from this report was that teen pregnancy rates have plummeted to a historic low over the past three decades.  This most likely is due thanks to improved efforts at educating young people about safe sex and increased access to contraceptives.  

So if the number of teenagers having sex has gone to the wayside and they are being educated on STDs with better access to birth control, what is causing the rise in STDs?  The numbers of this dramatic rise in STDs is being driven by women and by men who are having sex with other men.  In fact the largest increase – 22 percent – was among men with a large number of new gonorrhea cases among gay and bisexual men. 

Unfortunately, not only is the rise being seen in women, gay and bisexual men, but also newborn babies.  There was a 36 percent spike in congenital syphilis cases among newborns which has public health officials especially concerned.  To prevent a baby being born with syphilis, all it takes is a simple STD test and antibiotic treatment. Otherwise, the baby can possibly suffer from deformed bones, severe anemia, jaundice, blindness or deafness, or meningitis. 

What can be done to reverse this dangerous and troubling trend?  The CDC is calling for stronger preventative measures to combat this sobering increase of STDs by urging the implementation of the following:

·      State and local health departments need to refocus on preventing and treating these diseases

·      Doctors need to make STD screening and treatment a standard part of medical care, especially for pregnant women and gay and bisexual men

·      People need to talk openly about STDs, get tested regularly, and reduce risk by using condoms or being monogamous

·      Continue to educate the public on how STDs can be prevented and treated.  All it takes to treat the diseases are antibiotics.  If they are left undiagnosed and untreated, STDs can lead to serious health problems such as infertility, life-threatening ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth, and increase risk of HIV infection.