The United States is facing a concerning surge in sexually transmitted infections (STIs), described as an “out-of-control” epidemic by the National Coalition of STD Directors following the release of the annual STI data report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In a stark announcement on the CDC website, officials expressed frustration as over 2.5 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis were reported in the country once again. Chlamydia remained the most common STI in 2022, while the recent spike in syphilis cases, up by 80 percent over five years, is causing particular alarm among health experts.
Of significant concern is the rise in congenital syphilis cases, affecting babies born to infected mothers during pregnancy or birth. In 2022, over 3,700 cases were reported, marking a staggering 937 percent increase over a decade.
While syphilis is treatable with antibiotics, untreated cases can lead to irreversible harm, especially in infants, including developmental delays and even death. The infection progresses through stages, with the early stages being the most contagious and potentially fatal if left untreated.
Despite the availability of effective treatment, timely testing and intervention during pregnancy could have prevented the majority of congenital syphilis cases reported in 2022. However, such preventive measures are not always implemented.
According to Laura Bachmann, CDC Director for STD Prevention, the STI field is at a critical juncture, necessitating swift innovation and collaboration among public health experts to address the crisis. Several health organizations, including the National Association of County and City Health Officials, the American Sexual Health Association, and the National Coalition of STD Directors, have echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the urgent need for funding and resources to combat the escalating STI rates.
While President Biden has initiated a multi-agency plan to tackle the rising STI cases, the availability of funding for these efforts remains uncertain. The NCSDDC emphasizes that federal leadership must be backed by adequate funding at the community level to effectively address the STI epidemic and prevent further dire consequences, particularly congenital syphilis.
Without sufficient resources, the efforts to curb STIs, especially syphilis, risk being ineffectual, underscoring the critical need for sustained investment in public health initiatives aimed at prevention, testing, and treatment of STIs nationwide.