November 19, 2015 — The number of reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis all increased in 2014, with rates of chlamydia reaching record levels, according to a CDC report released on Tuesday, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
CDC found that there were 1.4 million reported cases of chlamydia last year, accounting for about 456 cases per 100,000 people and marking a nearly 3% increase from 2013 and 2014 (Tanner, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/17). According to HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, the total marks the largest number of annual cases for any STI reported to the CDC (Reinberg, HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 11/17). The increase follows a decline in the number of chlamydia cases reported in 2013.
Meanwhile, CDC found that gonorrhea cases increased by 5% from 2013, with 350,062 cases reported last year. There was also a 15% increase in the rate of the most contagious forms of syphilis. The syphilis increase was mainly among men who have sex with men, which has been the case in years past (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/17).
Most New Cases Are Among Young People
Gail Bolan, director of the CDC's Division of STD Prevention, noted that individuals ages 15 to 24 comprised about two-thirds of reported gonorrhea and chlamydia cases in 2014. She compared the findings with prior estimates that young people account for 50% of the estimated 20 million new diagnoses of STIs in the U.S. per year.
Separately, American Sexual Health Association spokesperson Fred Wyand noted that, in addition to young people, other populations disproportionately affected by STIs include women and men who have sex with men.
According to Bolan, higher STI rates among men helped drive the 2014 increases. She said men who have sex with men accounted for 83% of reported cases of syphilis in 2014, and that a little more than 50% of men who had syphilis last year also were HIV-positive. She added that men who have sex with men also are reporting similar increases in rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea.
Reason for Increase
Bolan suggested that reduced clinic access has played a role in the recent increase in STI cases. "About 7 percent of health departments have closed ST[I] clinics," she said, adding, "Over 40 percent have reduced clinic hours, and clinics have increased fees and co-pays. We are concerned that people are not getting access to the ST[I] health services they deserve and need."
Meanwhile, Wyand attributed the increase to "many factors," such as homophobia, mass incarceration, poverty and stigma. He noted, "Add to that the fact that the best ST[I] control programs we develop are limited by a complex array of issues, including stable housing, transportation to clinics, and leave time from work."
He added that "young people are more biologically susceptible to ST[I]s and also often lack health insurance or the empowerment necessary to effectively navigate the health care system."
To curb the increasing STI rates, Wyand suggested boosting people's access to STI testing and treatment, as well as using promotional materials to underscore the importance of using condoms (HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 11/17).