By Luis G. de Jesus, MD
Center for Disease Control (CDC) published its annual Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance for 2015 in October, 2016 and the statistics are alarming. STDs have been in the past and are still a serious public problem causing tremendous health and economic burden in the United States and costing $16 billion annually.
The report estimates that about 20 million new STDs occur each year. Young people ages 15 to 24 years, which comprise the majority of high school and college students, are affected most. Half of all cases come from this age group.
After years of steady STD rate decline, the rates of gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis are climbing. Compared to 2014, the 2015 STD surveillance rates were 6%, 13%, and 19% higher for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, respectively.
There were 1,526,658 cases of chlamydia and 395,216 cases of gonorrhea reported in 2015. Young women are at risk for the most serious health consequences including pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and infertility. Young men who have sex with men (MSM) were disproportionately affected by gonorrhea. Gonorrhea, increasingly resistant to antibiotics, is a growing global problem.
There were 23,872 reported cases of primary and secondary syphilis. The data showed a dramatic increase (19%) in 2015. Ninety percent of cases were men and MSM account for 82%. Syphilis can increase the risk for acquiring and transmitting HIV. Chronic untreated syphilis (tertiary syphilis) leads to brain and other organ damage.
Individuals at risk, particularly people aged 15-24, should discuss with their healthcare providers about STD testing. Since many affected individuals have no symptoms, screening is vital. Early STD detection and treatment of individuals and their sexual partners can lead to significant decrease in health complications and transmission.