The Growing Epidemic of Sexually Transmitted Infections in the US

The Growing Epidemic of Sexually Transmitted Infections in the US

The National Coalition of STD Directors has issued a stark warning about the “out-of-control” epidemic of sexually transmitted infections in the US. Data released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in January revealed that more than 2.5 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis were reported in the United States. While chlamydia remains the most common STI, health officials are particularly alarmed by the recent surge in syphilis cases.

Syphilis poses a grave threat not only to adults but also to infants. When a mother passes on syphilis to her child during pregnancy or birth, it results in congenital syphilis. Shockingly, there has been a 937 percent increase in cases of congenital syphilis in the US over the past decade, with more than 3,700 cases reported in 2022.

While syphilis is curable with antibiotics, the key challenge lies in diagnosing and treating the infection in a timely manner. Failure to do so can lead to irreversible damage to the body, especially in infants. Congenital syphilis can cause developmental delays, seizures, and even death in babies. In adults, syphilis is transmitted through sexual contact and progresses through stages, with the potential to impact vital organs and be fatal if left untreated.

The increasing rates of syphilis are disproportionately affecting Black or African American children, with Texas, California, Arizona, Florida, and Louisiana accounting for 57 percent of reported cases of congenital syphilis in 2022. Tragically, these infections resulted in 282 stillbirths and infant deaths. Timely testing and treatment during pregnancy could have prevented 88 percent of these cases, highlighting the urgent need for improved STI prevention strategies.

Health officials, including the CDC and various health associations, are calling for swift innovation and collaboration to address the escalating public health crisis posed by STIs, especially syphilis. The National Association of County and City Health Officials, the American Sexual Health Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the National Coalition of STD Directors have joined forces to advocate for increased funding for screening, treatment, and prevention services.

Challenges in Funding and Government Support

Despite President Biden’s efforts to address the rising STI cases in the US, the lack of funding for STI prevention remains a significant challenge. The National Coalition of STD Directors expressed concern over the White House’s 2025 budget blueprint, which does not include an increase in federal funding for the CDC’s STI programs. Without adequate resources and government support, the fight against STIs, particularly syphilis, will continue to face obstacles in effectively curbing the spread of infections and protecting public health.


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