healthHealth and Medicine

STD Cases In The US Reached A Grim New High In 2017


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

A human macrophage rupturing after being infected with Chlamydia. David Goulding, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

According to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were a record-high 2.3 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis diagnosed in the US in 2017. This represents the fourth consecutive year of a “steep, sustained” increase in STD cases – a 31 percent increase of 2013 levels.

Of these, 555,608 cases of gonorrhea represented a 67 percent uptick in the same time period. This featured a doubling of cases among men, but the CDC explains that “increases in diagnoses among women — and the speed with which they are increasing — are also concerning,” adding that this is the third consecutive year that cases have risen.


Primary and secondary syphilis, of which there were 30,644 diagnoses in 2017, represented a 76 percent increase. Around 70 percent of the cases featured gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.

Both pale in comparison to the number of chlamydia cases, which came in at 1.7 million. This figure was boosted by a 45 percent increase among 15-24-year-old females.

The CDC stresses, however, that plenty of cases will remain undiagnosed, and their figures “represent just a small fraction of the true disease burden.”

At the same time, although curable with antibiotics, plenty of these diseases aren’t brought in to be treated, especially when they are asymptomatic. The emergence of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea also deeply concerns officials, who fear a time when this STD no longer becomes treatable with current methods.


“We expect gonorrhea will eventually wear down our last highly effective antibiotic, and additional treatment options are urgently needed,” Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, said in a statement.

Although only partly to blame, a lack of federal funding for public health programs in various states, an uptick in drug abuse, and poverty are behind the staggering numbers – meaning the Trump administration is presiding over a Make America Itch Again era of prolific STDs.

It also doesn’t help that plenty of public officials still oppose sex education in schools, while others continue to promote abstinence-only programs within the US at the expense of condom use and free distribution.

Per Axios, the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) cited a 40 percent decrease in the purchasing power of STD prevention and research funding on a federal level, which means multiple administrations are at fault here.


David Harvey, executive director of the NCSD, said that “It’s not a coincidence STDs are skyrocketing,” adding that “right now, our STD prevention engine is running on fumes.”

“We are sliding backward,” Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, said of the figures. “It is evident the systems that identify, treat, and ultimately prevent STDs are strained to near-breaking point.”

This sentiment could be applied to plenty of medical crises afflicting the US and its patchwork, lopsided healthcare system right now. The opioid epidemic, partly driven by the oversubscription and ubiquity of painkillers, and incorrectly perceived as a criminal issue by some, doesn’t show any signs of abating, and neither does the obesity epidemic.

Measles, for which highly effective and affordable vaccines exist, is also making a comeback in the US largely thanks to persistent pockets of people refusing to inoculate themselves or their children. America’s life expectancy is also continuously declining.


These trends are juxtaposed with the fact that America is the wealthiest and most technologically developed nation on Earth. It can’t be forgotten that the country is rife with economic inequality, featuring a disproportionately expensive healthcare system that has both attempted to be, and has been, maliciously skewed against the poor by the current federal government and the GOP.


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