Sexually transmitted diseases become ‘alarming threat,’ CDC report says

Victoria May

Sexually transmitted diseases have become an “alarming threat” across the nation as the rate of yearly infection cases increases, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For the past five years, syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia cases have steadily increased, according to the CDC’s Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report released Oct. 8.

“Not that long ago, gonorrhea rates were at historic lows, syphilis was close to elimination and we were able to point to advances in STD prevention, such as better chlamydia diagnostic tests and more screening, contributing to increases in detection and treatment of chlamydial infections,” Dr. Gail Bolan, director of the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, said in the report’s foreword. “That progress has since unraveled.”

Since 2014, the number of chlamydia cases has seen a 19% increase, gonorrhea has seen a 63% increase, primary and secondary syphilis have seen a 71% increase, and congenital syphilis cases have more than doubled, according to the report.

The report said there have been 2.4 million cases of STD infections over the past year. Of those cases, more than half are chlamydia cases, and there have been 583,405 cases of gonorrhea, 35,063 cases of primary and secondary syphilis, and 1,306 cases of congenital syphilis.

Sherry Bell, consumer education and outreach coordinator for University Health Services, said the University continues to provide a variety of ways students can prevent and detect STD infections. She said it’s important for students to take their health seriously regardless of whether they have STDs.

“Discussions about having an STD, or even talking about them in general, can be incredibly hard because of the negative social stigma that surrounds the topic,” Bell said. “What students don’t get is that having an STI is nothing to be ashamed of. You have to take care of yourself and learn how to manage the risks of being sexually active.”

According to the CDC’s website, half of STD cases occur among young adults aged 15 to 24. The CDC said this age group experiences the highest number of infections.

“It is imperative that federal, state, and local programs employ strategies that maximize long-term population impact by reducing STD incidence and promoting sexual health,” Bolan said in the report. 

UHS offers a list of off-campus locations where students can go to pick up free condoms to combat infection, a method that they say is 98% effective at preventing STDs. They also offer STD testing for students regardless of insurance coverage.

A list of local government and nonprofit organizations geared toward providing free or low-cost testing options to students is available on the UHS website.

Computer science sophomore Delaney Brown said she believes caring about one’s health isn’t wrong, so going to testing centers shouldn’t be treated like it is either.

“People treat it like it’s wrong to get tested even if you don’t have an infection, but places like the Kind Clinic that offer not only free testing but open up a dialogue about sexual wellness really make you feel like it’s OK to get these checkups,” Brown said. “It’s OK to look out for yourself.”