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An Alarming Increase In STDs In The U.S.: What’s Going On????

I happened to have received my medical training in the late 80s and ’90s during one of the scariest periods to be a single young person in New York City-----the beginnings of the AIDS epidemic. We all knew about herpes, chlamydia, and gonorrhea but finally, an STD that could kill you! Through all of this, I honestly expected that over 30 years later, the younger generation would have learned from the past and embraced safe sexual habits, but it appears that is not the case.

The Centers for Disease Control has reported the highest number of cases of STDs on record! They have documented the following:

  • 1.8 million cases of Chlamydia (19% increase since 2014)

  • 583,405 cases of Gonorrhea (63% increase since 2014)

  • 115,000 cases of Syphilis (from 2017-2018!)

  • 35,063 cases of Primary and Secondary Syphilis (71% increase since 2014)

  • 1306 cases of Congenital Syphilis (185% increase since 2014)

  • 94 cases of newborn deaths from Syphilis (22% increase from 2017)

These levels are at an all-time high for the United States and reflect careless, high-risk sexual behavior. Keeping it real, people have just become lazy and careless about using protection. Sexually transmitted diseases are not to be taken lightly and can have severe health consequences, including death. These alarming numbers do not include the impacts of hepatitis, HIV, and other less talked about STDs. The unfair aspect of STDs is that some can affect the innocent unborn.

Many factors appear to be driving this incredible increase in sexually transmitted diseases. Some well-known factors include drug use, poverty, shame, and unstable housing. These conditions can reduce access to STD prevention and treatment. There is also decreased condom use amongst high-risk groups, including gay and bisexual men. In my practice, I see more college students engaging in high-risk sexual behavior that inevitably leads to an unexpected STD. The recent attacks on planned parenthood and cuts to STD programs at the state and local levels are also contributing. In recent years, half of the local programs have experienced budget cuts, leading to clinic closures, reduced screening for STDs, and reduced patient follow-up, which is now the perfect storm.

The prevalence of STDs appears to be worse during this period of medical enlightenment than when our knowledge and health systems were much less advanced. I fear a slow migration of STDs into high school and middle school-aged children (“the nightmare scenario”). Parents must educate their kids with visual information about these diseases and their consequences.

I will therefore follow this article with a review of the common STDs and their treatments, in case you have forgotten.

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