(NEXSTAR) – Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are at an all-time high, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tuesday.
There were more than 2.5 million reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis — the most commonly reported STDs — in 2019.
That’s a nearly 30% increase in reportable STDs between 2015 and 2019.
The STD caseload has been rising steadily for six years. Each previous year was reported as the all-time high for the year before.
The sharpest increase was in cases of syphilis among newborns, which quadrupled between 2015 and 2019, the CDC said.
Syphilis can be passed from mother to child in-utero.
“Less than 20 years ago, gonorrhea rates in the U.S. were at historic lows, syphilis was close to elimination, and advances in chlamydia diagnostics made it easier to detect infections,” said Raul Romaguera, DMD, MPH, acting director for CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, in a statement. “That progress has since unraveled, and our STD defenses are down. We must prioritize and focus our efforts to regain this lost ground and control the spread of STDs.”
The burden of STDs increased overall and across many groups in 2019. But it continued to hit racial and ethnic minority groups, gay and bisexual men, and youth the hardest.
The burden of STDs was especially high among ethnic minority groups, youth, gay and bisexual men, the CDC said.
Black people were 5 to 8 times more likely to have an STD than non-Hispanic white people, while Hispanic or Latino people were 1 to 2 times more likely.
Gay and bisexual men made up nearly half of all 2019 primary and secondary syphilis cases, and gonorrhea rates were 42 times that of heterosexual men in some areas.
The data was likewise stark for young people, aged 15 to 24. That population accounted for 61% of chlamydia cases and 42% of gonorrhea cases.
“Focusing on hard-hit populations is critical to reducing disparities,” said Jo Valentine, MSW, associate director of the Office of Health Equity in CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, in the statement. “To effectively reduce these disparities, the social, cultural, and economic conditions that make it more difficult for some populations to stay healthy must be addressed. These include poverty, unstable housing, drug use, lack of medical insurance or regular medical provider, and high burden of STDs in some communities.”
The CDC said that the COVID-19 pandemic has “exacerbated an already stretched system for STD control in the U.S.”
It identified several “new and innovative ways” STD services can meet additional people, including STD express clinics, which provide walking testing and treatment; partnerships with pharmacies and retail health clinics; and telehealth, which can “close gaps in testing and treatment” and “ensure access to healthcare providers.”