Ongoing, severe epidemic of sexually transmitted infections in the U.S. costs $16 billion, report finds

Milla Impola

Last week, on the eve of America’s most romantic holiday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released two analyses which “provide an in-depth look at the severe human and economic burden of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the United States.”

The analyses found that STI treatment costs the American health care system nearly $16 billion in direct medical costs alone. 

So, if preventing unplanned pregnancy and STIs do not suffice as good enough reasons to take charge of your sexual health, then do it for your wallet. Do it for America’s wallet. 

“STIs take a big health and economic toll on men and women in the United States, especially our youth,” CDC epidemiologist Catherine Lindsey Satterwhite told NBC News. “We know that preventing STIs could save the nation billions of dollars each year.”

The analyses by the CDC looked at the eight common STIs, including human papillomavirus, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, hepatitis B virus, human immunodeficiency virus and trichomoniasis.

The CDC estimates that there are 19.7 million new cases of STIs in the U.S. each year. Teens and young adults from ages 15 to 24 account for half of these cases, despite representing only 25 percent of the sexually experienced population. Overall, there are 110 million cases of STIs, including new and existing infections, among men and women nationwide. 

Approximately 79 million Americans are currently living with HPV and about 14 million new cases are diagnosed each year, making HPV the most common STI in America. Although the CDC says 90 percent of HPV infections will go away on their own within two years and cause no harm, some HPV infections can lead to serious consequences, such as cervical cancer. 

Alarmingly, the “Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer” released in January by researchers at the CDC and the National Cancer Institute found incidence rates of HPV-related cancers are on the rise for white men and women. 

STIs like chlamydia can lead to complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility and ectopic pregnancies. Although chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and trichomoniasis are easily treated if diagnosed early, many of these infections go untested and therefore untreated, which can end up costing patients thousands of dollars.

The truth is that only way to begin treatment is by knowing you have been infected. 

If you received abstinence-only sex education in Texas, you may have encountered some of the scare tactics educators use in attempt to deter teen sexual activity. However, slide shows of horrifying, often medically inaccurate depictions of STIs can create the “I would know if I had an STI” mentality. If you still happen to think all STIs resemble an oozing cauliflower the size of a football, please be advised that most STIs have no symptoms. 

If you are sexually active, it is crucial you get tested. You can visit the CDC site to see its recommendations on getting tested, and then march on down to University Health Services, where UT students can get confidential HIV and STI testing.

Published on February 20, 2013 as "STIs in U.S. heavily impact economy, daily life".