According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) – especially gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia – has substantially increased in 2018 in the United States.
Officials reported more than 2.4 million cases of STDs in 2018, up from more than 100,000 in 2017. Alarmingly, half the number of cases were reported in people aged between 15 and 24. Among the three STDs, the number of congenital syphilis has been concerning because it led to more than 90 newborn deaths in 2018.
Like many other public health issues, the causes of STDs are complicated. However, the officials have identified a few factors that could be responsible for a surge in STD cases in the United States.
The CDC said that “deteriorating public health infrastructure and lack of access to health care” have been the two major causes of concern.
The officials have criticized a policy implemented by the Trump administration, which stopped some clinics from getting federal funding and rerouting some them to religious health centers.
Marie Solis, a staff writer at VICE, said, “The Trump administration’s revised Title X rule has not only forced hundreds of clinics that provide comprehensive reproductive healthcare to forego federal funding … but it’s also allowed that money to go to organizations that are openly opposed to evidence-based methods of preventing STIs and unintended pregnancy, namely condoms and birth control.”
Other potential causes of the surge include poverty, drug use, the stigma of STDs, and a decline in condom use.
Explaining that some people might be getting STDs from nonsexual activities, Rachel Feltman from Popular Science, said, “The uptick in heterosexual syphilis transmission seems closely tied to recent drug use epidemics, and could potentially be addressed in tandem by offering better access to counseling and healthcare.”
Executive Director of thestdproject.com Jenelle Marie Pierce said, “If we keep fear-mongering the public, folks won’t get tested, so we’re stymieing our efforts before they even begin, and that’s probably the most disheartening point of all,” The officials explained that successful HIV treatments and preventions have been causing less reliance on condoms, paving the way to a surge in STD cases. At the same time, the officials believe that sex education is not preparing young people to understand the risks of STDs.