Sexually transmitted diseases are treatable and preventable. So why are more people getting them?

SALT LAKE CITY — Cases of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia — sexually transmitted diseases monitored by public health agencies — have risen since 2013, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2017 surveillance report that calls the increase “steep and sustained.”

Chlamydia cases have increased 22 percent to 1.7 million, gonorrhea by 67 percent to 555,608 cases and syphilis a whopping 76 percent to 30,644 cases — a dramatic reversal of a yearslong trend of declining cases.

“Yet not that long ago, gonorrhea rates were at historical lows, syphilis was close to elimination and we were able to point to advances in STD prevention, such as better diagnostic tests and more screening, contributing to increases in detection and treatment of chlamydial infections. That progress has since unraveled,” writes Dr. Gail Bolan, director of the center’s Division of STD Prevention.

Officials are also worried about the appearance of an antibiotic-resistant strain of gonorrhea and a dramatic rise in congenital syphilis, indicating pregnant women are not being screened or treated in time to prevent its transmission to their babies.

Aaron Thorup

Half the diagnosed STDs are found among those ages 15-24. That’s especially problematic, the CDC notes, because those young people are entering their prime age to have children and for sexual activity. Sexually transmitted infections can cause infertility and make it easier to transfer HIV to unborn children and partners, among other problems.

The increase in STDs has happened while the CDC, The National Campaign and others suggested that the number of teens engaging in sex has decreased and those using contraceptives have increased to explain why teen pregnancy had decreased in the United States. The figures from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Adolescent Health for 2016 showed 209,809 babies were born to females ages 15-19. That was a record low birthrate in the age group, 20.3 per 1,000 women, down from 22.3 in 2015 — and a whopping 67 percent drop from the all-time high of 61.8 births per 1,000 in 1991.

But women’s health nurse practitioner Katie Ward says the increase in STDs “reflects a lack of education and maybe a little complacency.” It reflects “some lost momentum in preventive care,” including inability of some people to access care, said Ward, an associate professor and specialty director of the Women’s Health NP Program at the University of Utah.

She said that all three STDs can be treated and usually cured at the early stages. Antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea and advanced syphilis are more problematic.

Reporting in Utah

The Beehive State follows the national trends, with the notable exception of congenital syphilis. No babies were born with that condition last year, says Carmen Drury, STD/HIV epidemiologist for the Utah Department of Health’s Division of Disease Control and Prevention.

Syphilis is potentially devastating for babies. Those who live may be blinded or have bone malformation, among other things, Drury said.

She credits the high rates of prenatal care and the fact that Utah practitioners follow CDC and Utah public health guidelines for …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Top stories


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