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New National Statistics Show Increases in Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and Syphilis

For Immediate Release                                              Contact:
November 17, 2015                                                    Stephanie S. Arnold Pang
                                                                                        National Coalition of STD Directors
                                                                                        (612) 220-2446
                                                                                        sarnold@ncsddc.org    

PRESS RELEASE                                                       

First Time in Nearly a Decade all Three Have Increased in the Same Year;
NCSD Calls on Congress to Increase Vital STD Prevention Funding

Washington, D.C. - Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its 2014 sexually transmitted disease (STD) surveillance data report.  This annual report of statistics and trends for three commonly reportable sexually transmitted diseases in the United States (chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis) shows that for the first time since 2006, rates for all three of these infections increased in 2014, driven predominantly by increases in men.  Most notably, rates for primary and secondary syphilis, which are the most infectious stages of syphilis, increased by a shocking 15 percent in 2014, on top of a 10 percent increase in 2013 and an 11 percent increase in 2012.

While men accounted for 91 percent of the total cases of syphilis reported in 2014, increases were seen across all demographics including among men who have sex with men (MSM), men who have sex with women, and also in women generally.  Coming on the heels of data released last week showing that congenital syphilis increased by 38 percent between 2012 and 2014, this report shows that the rate of congenital syphilis has increased to the highest rate seen since 2001.

"These shocking and ever-increasing STD rates are a real clarion call for action," stated William Smith, Executive Director of the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD).  "This is a time when the health care delivery system needs public health leadership and additional investments in this work are required to ensure this leadership.  Cuts to our public health system at the federal, state, and local levels have eviscerated its capacity and this diminished capacity of the public health system simply cannot adequately address STD increases of this magnitude."

NCSD calls on Congress to increase STD prevention investments so health departments can continue to ensure all of those are risk for STDs are getting tested and correctly treated, vital contact tracing is being implemented to stop the spread of disease, and additional resources can be dedicated to better understand what is causing the crisis in gay men's health.  A fiscal year 2016 funding bill passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee earlier this summer included a shocking 20 percent cut to the Division of STD Prevention at the CDC.  A cut of this size would be devastating to the public health departments that rely on this funding to perform the essential functions of STD surveillance, contact tracing, and protecting the health of our communities.  Many states rely solely on federal funds for their state STD prevention and control efforts, and this proposed cut would likely end CDC's ability to fund all state health departments for STD prevention and control.  Congress is currently working to complete its FY 2016 funding bills.

This report also found the following:

  • Gonorrhea increased overall in 2014 by 5 percent, driven by a concerning 10 percent increase among men.
  • Women saw a slight (0.4 percent) decrease in gonorrhea in 2014. 
  • After two years of respite, levels of resistance are rising in the last front-line drug recommended to treat gonorrhea.
  • Chlamydia rates increased overall in 2014 by 2.8 percent, driven by a 6.8 increase in men. 
  • Rates of chlamydia also increased in women by 1.3 percent.

"HIV is not the only STD that is impacting gay men and other MSM at a disproportionate rate and we should not sit by and watch other STDs in this community also continue to rise," continued Smith.  "What is needed now to address this crisis in gay men's sexual health is scaled up use of condoms, frequent STD screenings, including screening at the throat and the rectum, and education that gonorrhea resistance is again on the rise."

NCSD continues to work with its member health departments to ensure that those who are most at risk for STDs are receiving recommended screenings and accessing vital health care.  Along with the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), NCSD has released Optimal Care Check Lists both for gay men and providers who treat them, as well as materials to reduce the stigma faced by gay men and other MSM.  In addition, NCSD, NASTAD, and the National Network of Clinical Prevention Training Centers (NNPTC) will be releasing a sexual health standard of care for gay men early next year. 

This report also shows concerning trends among another community at increased risk of STDs: young people.  While both the numbers and the rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia continue to be the highest among young people aged 15-24, rates for both of these STDs decreased in young people ages 15-19 in 2014.  Reported STD screening rates for this age group have also fallen.  Coupled together, it is likely that these reductions in STD rates are because young people are not being tested for STDs, not because young people are experiencing less disease.  Young people are still at the highest risk of acquiring an STD and reductions in screening rates are leaving young people vulnerable to the devastating effects of an untreated STD; it is estimated that undiagnosed STDs cause more than 20,000 women to become infertile each year.

This report highlights an increasing sexual health crisis in the United States, but it only shows a fraction of the true burden of STDs in this country, as it only covers three STDs (chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis).  It does not include data on a number of other STDs, such as human papillomavirus (HPV), herpes, and trichomoniasis, which are not routinely reported to the CDC.   These STDs also have devastating long-term health impacts as well and are much too prevalent across the country.

"What we need now is a strong commitment from policy makers at every level of government to double down the investments that are made in protecting our communities.  Those on the front line need to have additional tools to address these epidemics," concluded Smith.

The full 2014 STD surveillance data can be found on the CDC website at: www.cdc.gov/std/stats14/.  CDC's guidelines for STD screening and treatment can be found here: www.cdc.gov/std/tg2015/

NCSD Press Release PDF

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The National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) is a partnership of public health professionals dedicated to promoting sexual health through the prevention of STDs. NCSD provides dynamic leadership that strengthens STD Programs by advocating for effective policies, strategies,

and sufficient resources by increasing awareness of the medical and social impacts of STDs.

For more information, visit www.NCSDDC.org.  

Highlighted Resources

Third Trimester ScreeningNCSD has published a resource on Third Trimester Screening for Syphilis and HIV.

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NCSD has published a resource on Third Trimester Screening for Syphilis and HIV. This resource details the importance of screening during pregnancy, and lays out some current state policy trends regarding third trimester syphilis screening.

Read more...