CDC Unveils Alarming U.S. Trend in STD Statistics

Summertime is finally simmering down, and I don’t know about you but it is such a relief to move on to the beautiful autumn season and enjoy the outdoors. However, “cuffing-season” is upon us! For those of you who aren’t hip to the term, cuffing-season refers to the time of year when the weather gets colder and almost as a biological response, single minglers seek out a suitable partner to claim as their netflix-and-chill companion or even as a bed-warming buddy – look we’re trying to keep it ‘PG’-rated here (PG = pretty geeky, ha!).

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Naturally, these pairings tend to lead toward some form of sexual activity, and unless you’re intending on having a baby with this person, or worse, are careless about exposing yourself to the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease, it’s best to have protection on deck before proceeding with your bedroom affairs. The latest CDC figures that came out regarding STD surveillance for 2018, show it would be smart to both protect yourself and choose your partner wisely. Here are some key startling statistics from that report:

A record 2,457,118 STD cases were reported in the United States during 2018. Mind you, these are only reported numbers so accounting for unreported cases, figures could be almost double what’s shown in these documents.

  • Young women between the ages of 15 and 24 account for 44% of reported chlamydia cases and face the most severe consequences of going undiagnosed, as infertility can result.
  • Congenital Syphilis cases among newborns jumped by 40% compared to the year before. Symptoms of which can result in severe health complications such as blindness, deafness, other debilitating developmental disorders, and even death.
  • Syphilis progresses through different stages of infection with primary and secondary infections being the most infectious stages – men accounted for 86% of cases in these highly infectious stages.
  • As of 2018, gonorrhea cases among men have nearly doubled over the past 5 years.
  • Gay and bisexual men appear to be impacted disproportionately by syphilis and gonorrhea, highlighting a need for more precautionary measures within those groups.
  • For all three diseases, blacks far out-pace all other races or ethnicities, when it comes to reported cases.

All of these outcomes are quite troubling, and considering that the U.S. was experiencing record low STD infection rates around the year 2000 for all three major diseases, we need to figure out what has gone wrong to reverse course so drastically. While trying to pinpoint the smoking gun behind this public health concern, blame has been tossed around to different organizations like a hot potato, but all explanations lead to a common funding issue. 

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The CDC has advocated for more funding and attention at the state and local levels of government, as this alleged neglect has reignited the resurgence of these diseases. The CDC and the AHF (Aids Healthcare Foundation) which are bound to the hip as it pertains to carrying out public health initiatives related to STDs, have also shed light on the dire need of federal government assistance to keep up with STD prevention funding needs. 

In that same vein, the AHF has also had some choice words for the CDC, regarding its perceived lack of effort in pursuing more funding for their preventative care programs. The potato gets chucked again when the CDC remarks that the public health infrastructure needs overhauling and to accommodate the populations in greatest need.

However, there is evidence that antibiotic-resistant strains of Gonorrhea have been arising (3.6% of gonorrhea cases in 2016), and as our treatments have pressured the bacteria to mutate and evolve, we are now down to our last remaining form of treatment that still works for non-resistant strains. 

Another consideration is that STDs may not be necessarily getting passed around at a more rapid rate, but instead greater detection from more clinical check-ins have attributed to the uptick in cases. It is very concerning for instance that females between the ages of 15 and 24 are so severely hampered by chlamydia cases versus males of the same age group. 

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One could infer that there is a sub-population of males lurking around, knowingly or unknowingly infected, and they pass along their disease burden to these women who have unprotected sex with them (primary transmission is through direct contact of the genitals). There are certainly some unanswered questions regarding this disparity, and others, but the short podcast interviews mentioned at the bottom of this article may help provide some clarity; check them out!

As this nationwide public health issue continues to seemingly spread like wildfire, please consider writing your local and state legislators to advocate for increased funding for STD prevention programs. Must I remind you that before you know it election time will be here too, so if this subject matters to you (which it should), be sure to make it a policy issue that leaders are obligated to address, and hold them accountable! We don’t want to wait until this is completely out of control, and we’re dealing with a raging health crisis. 

With all this in mind, you don’t need me to tell you that it’s getting a little crazy out there in the streets, so make sure to slow down and choose wisely during this cuffing-season. Oh, and of course, always use protection if and when that steamy moment arises. 

Feel free to peruse the full 2018 surveillance report here, to stay up to date on all the detailed data, commentary, and trends regarding STD infection.

Interviews

Listen here to NPR’s Atlanta station WABE 90.9 FM which spoke with Dr. Gail Bolan, director of the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, and Dr. Walkitria Smith, Family Medicine Associate Program Director at the Morehouse School of Medicine, about the results of the 2018 STD surveillance data along with proposed solutions to help reverse the alarming trends.  


Also check out another great discussion and recap on the 2018 surveillance data here, with CDC epidemiologist Dr. Elizabeth Torrone, courtesy of Boston’s NPR Station.

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