CDC published Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Surveillance, 2019, its annual report highlighting trends in reportable sexually transmitted infections. Reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis have increased for the sixth consecutive year – reaching a new, all-time high. These infections remain common, costly, and challenge the health and wellness of millions of people across the United States.
In 2019, U.S. health departments reported:
- 1.8 million cases of chlamydia, an increase of nearly 20 percent since 2015;
- 616,392 cases of gonorrhea, an increase of more than 50 percent since 2015; and
- 129,813 cases of syphilis (all stages), an increase of more than 70 percent since 2015.
Congenital syphilis, an incredibly harmful infection, has increased a staggering 279 percent since 2015. In 2019 alone, 128 infants died of congenital syphilis and nearly 2,000 cases were reported. In addition to infant morbidity and mortality, STIs can also lead to long-term health consequences, like infertility, and they can facilitate HIV transmission.
Although STDs are common and rates continue to rise, not everyone is equally affected. Racial and ethnic minority populations, adolescent and young adults, and gay and bisexual men remain hard hit. To change these disparities, we must address the social, cultural, and economic conditions that make it more difficult for sexually active people to stay healthy. While the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing challenges, it has also challenged the field to deliver accessible, high-quality STD services through innovations such as STI express clinics and telehealth/telemedicine. Together, and with the Department of Health and Human Services’ STI National Strategic Plan and the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s STIs: Adopting a Sexual Health Paradigm as our roadmaps, we can rise above these unprecedented times to take action and keep our communities healthy.