Does the U.S. have a major STI problem?

coupleSexually transmitted infections (STIs) have hit an all-time record high in the U.S. according to officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who are blaming budget cuts to state and local STI programs, leaving fewer people with access to testing and STI treatment.

The most prevalent STI unsurprisingly has been found to be chlamydia, which is also the most common amongst adults in the UK.

Over 1.5 million cases of the disease were recorded in the U.S. during 2015, representing a 6% rise from the previous year, whilst nearly 400,000 gonorrhoea cases were reported, up by 13% on 2014.

Moreover, there were an estimated 24,000 cases of the most contagious forms of syphilis during 2015, up 19%.

Health officials at the CDC believe the rise may be partly because of better testing and diagnosis, but the increase is a genuine worry.

“We’re very concerned about these unprecedented high number of cases of STIs in the United States,” Gail Bolan, the director of the CDC’s Division of Sexually Transmitted Disease Prevention, tells The Verge. “These new number are making it really clear that many Americans are not getting the preventive services they need.”

Over half of state and local STD programs have seen their budgets slashed according to the CDC, with more than 20 health department STD clinics being shut down in just one year alone. The CDC add that STIs are draining the U.S. health care system of almost $16 billion per year.

There are around a staggering 20 million new cases of STIs diagnosed each year in the U.S., whilst latest figures published earlier this year show there were 434,456 cases of STIs confirmed across sexual health centres in Britain.

Chlamydia – one of the most common STIs there is – is an infectious disease afflicting both men and women, but can prove particularly disastrous for women, especially if it is left untreated.

Without treatment, chlamydia can cause difficulty for the woman to fall pregnant, or make it impossible altogether. In addition, gonorrhoea may cause long-term problems such as infertility and abdominal pain in women. If the disease gets into the person’s blood or joints, there is even a risk of death. Syphilis meanwhile results in skin rashes and sores, and without treatment may also may damage the brain, nerves, and heart – Syphilis develops across four stages: primary, secondary, latent, and late.

All three of the infections can be treated and cured with the use of antibiotics, but there are fears about drug-resisant variations of STIs which could become much harder to treat and prove dangerous.

In July, the CDC announced that there is a possibility in the future of gonorrhea becoming resistant to the only two antibiotics left to treat it. “We’re very concerned about the threat of untreatable gonorrhea,” Bolan says. The World Health Organization have also previously warned that both chlamydia and syphilis are becoming resistant to antibiotics.

“We have reached a decisive moment for the nation,” Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, said in a statement. “STD rates are rising, and many of the country’s systems for preventing STDs have eroded. We must mobilize, rebuild and expand services — or the human and economic burden will continue to grow.”

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