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As the world gradually settles into a post-pandemic state, a substantial increase in STD rates has taken many people by surprise. What factors have gone into this “out of control” surge in sexually transmitted diseases, and what can you do to help prevent their spread? What role did the COVID-19 pandemic play in the current flood of cases?
STDs with the Highest Spikes
Nearly all sexually transmitted diseases in the United States have seen a resurgence in recent years. Here are just a few of the STDs that have been making comebacks recently.
Syphilis has made a massive comeback. After antibiotic treatments became available to Americans in the 1940s, infection rates fell rapidly. In 1998, fewer than 7,000 new cases of syphilis were diagnosed across the whole nation, leading the CDC to launch a plan to eliminate the disease completely. In 2021, syphilis rates went up by 21% from the previous year.
Primary and secondary syphilis aren't the only concerns when it comes to this deadly illness: if someone with syphilis carries a baby, the baby may contract congenital syphilis, which can lead to blindness, deafness, or even stillbirth. In the 2010s, there were only a few hundred cases of congenital syphilis in the country. In 2021, there were nearly 2,700 cases, more than 200 of which led to stillbirth or infant death.
Doctors have seen a recent surge in HIV cases, especially as condom use has decreased. Unlike gonorrhea and syphilis, doctors cannot treat this virus with antibiotics. There is currently no cure or vaccine for HIV, so your best option is to prevent yourself from getting the virus in the first place. Schedule routine STD tests at a Rapid STD Testing clinic near you for fast, accurate, confidential results.
One of the most prominent STDs is relatively new to the United States. Monkeypox was almost completely unknown to Americans until 2022, and while it isn't only transmitted through sex, its spread has been largely between men who have sex with men.
What Caused the Spike in STD Cases?
Why are STD rates so high in 2022? There's no one answer to that question. A lot of factors—from the COVID-19 pandemic to limited resources to educate Americans and prevent STD transmission—have combined to cause this spike.
The correlation between STD and COVID-19 trends is particularly dramatic. Many people left their homes after the stay-at-home orders were lifted and immediately engaged in risky behaviors to celebrate, feeling liberated.
According to Dr. Mike Saag, an infectious disease specialist with the University of Alabama at Birmingham, there has been a persistent decline in the rate of condom use in recent years, contributing to this spike in STDs. More sexually transmitted infections occur when people are having more unprotected sex.
Finally, even as STD rates have steadily increased over the years, limited resources for prevention and treatment have hobbled the disease elimination effort. The government defunded the CDC effort to eliminate syphilis in 2013 due to budget cuts and the social stigma surrounding STD testing and treatment.
STD Rates: By the Numbers
Given the skyrocketing disease rates, what are the odds of getting an STD? Young adults face the greatest risk, with nearly half of all new infections occurring in people between ages 15 and 24. To break down some statistics of STDs: the CDC estimates that 16 out of every 100,000 people in the United States are infected with syphilis. This is the highest infection rate in more than 30 years.
How many people have STDs? If you expand that search to include all sexually transmitted diseases, you'll find that one in five Americans—or about 68 million people—have an STD. Men who have sex with men are at particularly high risk, as are members of racial minorities. The STD rates among women may be lower, but they are on the rise: syphilis infections among women increased by about 50% in 2021.
The statistics about STDs in the United States may be shocking, but there are many ways to reduce your risk of getting or spreading a sexually transmitted disease. Use a barrier method like condoms when having sex, and be aware of your STD status, especially if you engage in high-risk behaviors. Consider getting a rapid STD test at one of our Rapid STD Testing clinics across the country with every new sexual partner you have.
Projected Solutions to Spiking STD Rates
When you're up against a problem as complex as rising STD rates nationwide, there's never any single solution. Any health control intervention to fight the rate of STD transmission needs to work on more than one front. Some solutions that the CDC recommends include:
- Improving access to STD testing and effective treatment
- Increasing federal funding for STD clinics and prevention programs
- Improving awareness of the proper use of condoms
- Reducing the stigma surrounding STDs
- Making one-on-one HIV/STD information intervention easily accessible
The National Coalition of STD Directors is one of many groups calling for these proposed solutions. In particular, the coalition is seeking a $500 million increase in STD health clinic funding.
The CDC continues to emphasize the need for accessible, affordable rapid STD testing. If you are sexually active, stay responsible by scheduling a 10 panel STD test at a Rapid STD Testing clinic. Regular testing is an essential step in reducing STD rates, even if you don't have symptoms.
What You Can Do to Reduce Your Risk of STDs
If you're sexually active, the single best thing you can do to reduce STD rates is to schedule regular STD screenings. With our same-day STD testing, Rapid STD Testing makes it easy and convenient to get tested for anything from human papillomavirus to viral hepatitis. Schedule your test today, and do your part to stay safe and responsible.