U.S. health officials revealed on Tuesday that the prevalence of one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases worldwide fell in the U.S. for the first time in three decades.
In its annual Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that there were over 1.4 million Americans who contracted chlamydia in 2013. The number may be high but the rate has actually gone down by 1.5 percent from 2012.
The number of syphilis cases, however, has increased by 10 percent for the same period with 17,357 individuals contracting the disease. Seventy-five percent of the diagnosed syphilis cases were men who have sexual contacts with other men.
CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention director Jonathan Mermin explained why gay and bisexual men have increased risks for syphilis.
"Some are the high number of sexual partners and sexual networks that create a vicious cycle where the prevalence of syphilis is higher. And that leads to higher incidence, which leads to higher prevalence, and that cycle can increase the frequency of infection," Mermin said.
Although syphilis can be treated with antibiotics, failure to treat the disease during its earliest stages can possibly lead to paralysis, stroke and blindness as well as increase the patient's risks for HIV. The sores caused by syphilis make it easier to contract or transmit HIV and based on the high number of syphilis cases, experts already expressed concerns over a possibly rise in HIV cases.
The rate of gonorrhea, another common sexually transmitted disease, on the other hand, was about the same with 333,004 reported cases in 2013. CDC's report showed that chlamydia and gonorrhea particularly affect young people with over 1.1 million diagnoses of both STDs in men and women between 15 and 24 years old in 2013.
While both diseases are preventable and curable, infections go undetected and even ignored because of lack of symptoms. Since STD can have serious effects on a woman's reproductive health, untreated infections results in about 24,000 American women becoming infertile per year. Because of this, CDC advised young women to get screened for chlamydia and gonorrhea every year.
"Each of these infections is a potential threat to an individual's immediate and long-term health and well-being," CDC said [pdf]. "In addition to increasing a person's risk for acquiring and transmitting HIV infection, STDs can lead to severe reproductive health complications, such as infertility and ectopic pregnancy."