NEW YORK (AP) — A sharp rise in some sexually transmitted diseases — including a 26 percent increase in new syphilis infections reported last year — is prompting U.S. health officials to call for new prevention and treatment efforts.
“It’s imperative that we work to rebuild, innovate and expand (STD) prevention in the U.S.,” Dr. Leandro Mena of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday at a medical conference on sexual intercourse. Communicable diseases.
Infection rates for some sexually transmitted diseases, including gonorrhea and syphilis, have been rising for years. Last year, the number of syphilis patients reached the highest level since 1991, and the total number of people infected with the virus reached the highest level since 1948. HIV cases are also on the rise, rising 16 percent last year.
And the global epidemic of monkeypox, which is spreading particularly among men who have sex with men, has highlighted the country’s growing problem with mostly sexually transmitted diseases.
David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, called the situation “out of control.”
Officials are working on new approaches to the problem, such as home testing kits for some STDs that allow people to easily detect if they have the disease and take steps to prevent it from spreading to others, Mena said.
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Another expert said condom use should be a core part of any effort.
“It’s very simple. According to Dr. Mike Sagg, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, sexually transmitted infections occur when people have unprotected sex.
Syphilis is a bacterial disease that presents as a genital ulcer but can eventually lead to severe symptoms and death if left untreated.
Since the 1940s, the widespread availability of antibiotics has caused new syphilis infections to drop in the United States. In 1998, fewer than 7,000 new cases were reported nationwide, falling to an all-time low. Progress was greatly encouraged by the CDC’s plan to eradicate syphilis in the US.
But in 2002, cases began to rise again, mostly among gay and bisexual men, and they continue to go. In the year In late 2013, the CDC halted its eradication campaign in the face of limited funding and an ever-increasing number of cases, which numbered more than 17,000 that year.
In the year In 2020, the number of cases is around 41,700 and it has risen further to more than 52,000 last year.
Last year, about 16 out of 100,000 people were struck, and the rate of cases is rising. It is the highest in three decades.
Rates are higher among men who have sex with men, and among black and Hispanic Americans and African Americans. While the rate for women is lower than for men, officials say it’s increasing dramatically — up nearly 50 percent in the past year.
This is linked to another problem: an increase in congenital syphilis, in which infected mothers pass the virus to their children, which can lead to the child’s death or health problems such as deafness and blindness. Annual cases of obstetric syphilis were only about 300 a decade ago. Last year there was an increase of about 2,700. Of last year’s total, 211 were stillborn or infant deaths, Mena said.
Experts say the rise in syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases may have several causes. Testing and prevention efforts have been hampered by inadequate funding for years, and transmission may have been exacerbated—especially during epidemics—by delays in diagnosis and treatment. Drug and alcohol use contributed to risky sexual behavior. Condom use is declining.
And there may be an increase in sexual activity as people emerge from Covid-19 lockdowns. “People are feeling liberated,” Saag said.
The arrival of monkeypox added a huge additional burden. The CDC recently sent a letter to state and local health departments informing them that their HIV and STD resources could be used to prevent monkeypox. But some experts say the government should give more money to STD work and not divert it.
Harvey’s group and some other public health organizations are pushing for more federal funding, including at least $500 million for STD clinics.
Last year, Mena, director of the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, called for reducing stigma, expanding screening and treatment services, and promoting at-home testing and supporting access. “I envision a day when testing[for STDs]will be as easy and affordable as doing a home pregnancy test,” he said.
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