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STDs hit record highs again, threatening millions of American lives

WASHINGTON, Aug. 28, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data today showing that STDs hit record highs in the U.S. for the fourth year in a row. Approximately 2.3 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis were diagnosed in 2017, an increase of more than 200,000 cases compared to 2016 and a more than 30 percent increase in the last five years. These entirely preventable, life-threatening infections cost the health care system more than $16 billion a year.

This explosion in STDs is largely a result of cutbacks in federal resources. Federal STD funding has seen a 40 percent decrease in purchasing power since 2003. The National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) estimates that an additional $70 million annually is needed to kickstart an effective response.

"It's not a coincidence STDs are skyrocketing – state and local STD programs are working with effectively half the budget they had in the early 2000s," says David C. Harvey, executive director of NCSD. "If our representatives are serious about protecting American lives, they will provide adequate funding to address this crisis. Right now, our STD prevention engine is running on fumes."

In most areas, federal funding is the only funding stream for STD prevention, and budget cuts in recent years have significantly curtailed the services health departments are able to provide – programs have been eliminated, STD clinics have closed or reduced hours, and outbreak response capacity has been significantly curtailed.

The new CDC data show that the U.S. continues to have the highest STD rates in the industrialized world. Some more frightening implications of the continued increases include a growing number of babies born with syphilis and the looming threat of untreatable gonorrhea. When STDs go undiagnosed and untreated, the consequences can be severe and irreversible, especially for women. 

"STDs have real health consequences – yes, they are often treatable, but they are by no means trivial," says Harvey. "Investing in STD prevention is a win-win. These are time-tested, highly cost-effective interventions that save lives and money."

A robust national response to STDs is also a critical part of a comprehensive plan to combat the opioid crisis. In addition to devastating rates of overdose and other health complications, people who use opioids and other drugs have high rates of sex practices that can increase their risk for STDs. Drug use has played a role in recent STD outbreaks and data increasingly show that it is playing a role in the rise of STDs nationally.

"Without increased support, an already-strained STD prevention infrastructure could buckle under the added pressure of the nation's opioid crisis," says Harvey. "Combatting STDs and opioids goes hand in hand. We're up against many of the same pressures and we're fighting for many of the same people."

NCSD is a national public health organization representing health department STD directors, their support staff, and community-based organizations across 50 states, seven large cities, and eight US territories. NCSD advances effective STD prevention programs and services in every community across the country. For more information, go to

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Last Updated: 29-Aug-2018