America's STD problem isn't stopping — in fact, it's just getting worse. In 2016, the number of people with STDs reached an all-time high, with more than 2 million new cases of gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia.
What's more, these diseases are on the rise in certain groups, including women, infants, and gay and bisexual males. The country's STD problem is worsening too fast to effectively deal with.
CDC Releases U.S. STD Surveillance Report
Nearly half of all diagnosed chlamydia infections are found in women, said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in its annual report on STDs. The new chlamydia cases in 2016 — 1,598,354 — represented a 4.7 percent increase from the previous year.
"STDs are a persistent enemy, growing in number, and outpacing our ability to respond," said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention.
Meanwhile, increasing cases of gonorrhea and syphilis suggest that these diseases are affecting new populations. New syphilis cases in 2016 represented a nearly 17.6 percent increase from the previous year.
Women in particular saw a huge 35.7 percent jump.
In addition, there was a 27.6 percent increase in congenital syphilis among newborns in 2016, which Dr. Gail Bolan, director of CDC's Division of STD Prevention, regards as "a tragic systems failure."
"All it takes is a simple STD test and antibiotic treatment to prevent this enormous heartache and help assure a healthy start for the next generation of Americans," she said.
In men and women, rates for new gonorrhea cases increased, with the largest increase — 22 percent — found among men. A significant number of new cases were found among gay and bisexual males.
There Might Be As Many As 20 Million New STD Cases
While 2 million is already a staggering number, it doesn't show the whole picture. Only those three diseases — syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia — are mandatorily reported by physicians to the CDC. Missing from the equation are HIV, herpes, and various other sexually transmitted diseases that are not currently monitored and tracked. But suppose they were included, the CDC estimates that there could be 20 million new STD cases in the United States annually.
"If not treated, gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis can have serious consequences, such as infertility, neurological issues, and an increased risk for HIV," said David Harvey, the executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, as CNN reports.
Why Is STD Such A Huge Problem?
Several factors can explain why this STD epidemic is occurring, according to Harvey. Cuts in funding for prevention and health care programs, debates around sex education in schools, and the prevalence of hookups all contribute to the problem. There's also the lack of symptoms for the diseases, making it hard for potential victims to look for signs.
There's also the factor of embarrassment, where people are either too afraid or too ashamed to come forward and ask for help with their STDs. But if only syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia were perceived as seriously as HIV, things might improve.
"We need a network of voices that say it's OK to get help," said Harvey.