There is a sharp increase in some sexually transmitted diseases and the numbers include a 26% increase in new syphilis cases that have been reported last year. This increase has led to health officials calling for new prevention and treatment measures.
According to Dr. Leandro Mena of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at a medical conference recently, “It is imperative that we … work to rebuild, innovate, and expand (STD) prevention in the US.”
The rate of syphilis and gonorrhea infection has been on the rise for the year but last year saw the highest infection rate since 1991and the total number was the highest since 1948. Also, last year saw an increase in HIV infection by 16%.
Monkeypox outbreak internationally has also highlighted the nation’s worsening infection problems especially because it mostly spreads among men who have sex with other men.
Experts are working around the clock to make sure there are new approaches to this problem and this includes measures such as home test kits for some STDs to make sure that it’s easier for infected people to know their status and prevent the spread to others.
Another health expert said that the other different approach would be to increase the use of condoms as a preventive measure. According to Dr. Mike Saag, an infectious disease expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, “It’s pretty simple. More sexually transmitted infections occur when people are having more unprotected sex.”
Syphilis, one of the STDs that are on the rise is a bacterial disease that affects the surfaces of genitals and can lead to other severe symptoms and death if the disease is left untreated.
When antibiotics became widely available in the 1940s, the rate of syphilis infection plummeted in the US. In 1998, the syphilis infection rate was at its lowest with under 7000 new cases reported nationwide. This progress is what encouraged the CDC to launch a plan to eliminate this STD in the US.
By 2002, syphilis infection cases started rising and this was large because of gay and bisexual men. The rise kept going and in late 2013, CD stopped its campaign to eliminate syphilis because of limited funds and the cases passed the 17,000 mark that year. By 2020, cases were approaching 41,700 and 2021 saw more than 52,000 cases of new syphilis infections. 2021 experienced the highest cases in three decades.
The infection rate is higher in men who have sex with other men, and among the Hispanic, Native Americans, and Black communities. The rates are higher in men than it is for women but there have been more women reported in 2021.
The rise in the reported cases has introduced a new problem which is an increase in congenital syphilis, which means that an infected mother passes the infection to her baby. This can potentially lead to health problems such as blindness and deafness. The yearly congenital syphilis rates have gone up to 2,700 in 2012 from 300 ten years ago with 211 of the 2012 cases being stillbirths.
There are different causes that are behind the increase in new syphilis infection cases. According to health experts, “Testing and prevention efforts have been hobbled by years of inadequate funding, and spread may have gotten worse — especially during the pandemic — as a result of delayed diagnosis and treatment. Drug and alcohol use may have contributed to risky sexual behavior. Condom use has been declining.”
There has been a feeling of being liberated after the lockdowns and this has led to a surge in sexual activity. The arrival of monkeypox has also brought an additional burden. There has been a push by experts and lobby groups to make sure that the government commits more funds to fight STDs including Harvey’s group and other public health organizations pushing for at least $500 million for STD clinics.