STI rates are sadly on the rise.
According to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), combined cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia have increased for the fifth consecutive year. Sexually transmitted infection rates reached a record high in 2018 at 2.5 million (a 30 percent increase since 2013). STI rates were also highest in southern and/or rural states like Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alaska, and South Dakota.
“This is a failure of the public health system and private health care system, and we have the tools to prevent it,” said Dr. Gail Bolan, director of the CDC’s STD Division.
The CDC sees partial blame for this situation going to the government for cutting funds for STI programs at the state and local levels. In fact, most STI clinics that were effective at treating disease closed down during the late 2000s and early 2010s (such as the closing of a Planned Parenthood in Indiana that led to an HIV outbreak). As for the health departments that still stand, they are often short staffed and largely underfunded.
“We’ve seen the erosion of the public health infrastructure,” Bolan said.
In addition, the CDC acknowledges some fault in the fact that young people and gay/bisexual men have been using condoms less frequently.
“Most people have no signs of symptoms so they don’t know they’re infected, and it becomes a challenging problem to identify everyone infected and get them treatment,” said Bolan.
Unfortunately, none of this news is surprising to health officials and public health groups. Even we here at Instinct Magazine have shared similar news for the past few years.
In reaction to these increased STI rates, the National Coalition of STD Directors has urged the U.S. Congress to increase funding in STD/STI prevention services by $70 million. They call that the “bare minimum” in fighting off this public health crisis.
“We have an STD crisis in the U.S. because prevention programs were sold short for years,” said David Harvey, executive director of the group. “Our first line of defense is underfunded and overwhelmed, leaving Americans vulnerable to STD outbreaks, and that’s exactly what we’re seeing.”
So far, the House of Representatives has passed a bill to increase funding for this cause, but it’s unsure if the Senate will do that same.
“STDs have real health and human costs. Babies dying from preventable conditions, like congenital syphilis, is not an outcome we can accept,” Harvey said. “This is a heartbreaking symptom of our nation’s STD crisis. Without a radical shift in how we prioritize sexual health in the United States, we can only expect things to get worse.”