Preliminary numbers are in from the Center for Disease Control’s 2017 assessment of sexually transmitted diseases and the results are… not very sexy. Americans trying to up their body count ended up amassing a record body count for the three most common STDs.

Numbers for these STDs have been on the rise for the past four consecutive years. All said and done, 2,294,821 confirmed reports of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis were tallied by the CDC in 2017 – the highest number of new cases ever recorded. How’s that for your body count?

Those between the ages of 15-24 are estimated to make up about half of all new STD cases, and men who have sex with men are at higher risk for most infections.

Coming in first place (or last, depending on how you look at it) is the ever-popular Chlamydia trachomatis. With more than 1.7 million cases, chlamydia is by far the most prevalent of the three STDs included in the report.

From 2013-2017, cases of chlamydia increased by 31%. Thankfully, chlamydia is easily cured with a weeklong regimen of antibiotics and abstinence (I think you’ll be fine).

Gonorrhea, on the other hand, shot up 67% from 2013-2017 with over 555,000 reported cases. This is particularly alarming because as we treat more and more cases, doctors are seeing the bacteria evolve into strains that are more resistant to both front-line antibiotic treatments.

Last, but certainly not least, 2013-2017 saw a 76% increase in syphilis cases. The infection, which was almost completely eradicated from the U.S. around the year 2000, has seen a major comeback with 30,644 new cases popping up in 2017.

Arguably the scariest part of this whole mess is that this is just the tip of the iceberg. At any given moment, it is estimated that over 110 million Americans are infected with an STD, and many people infected by these three bacteria will never develop symptoms. Just because somebody looks squeaky clean isn’t a safe pass to forego wrapping it up.  

This is problematic not only because it helps spread the STDs to more people, but going without treatment can lead to permanent health effects like decreased fertility in men and women, and an increased risk of HIV among other issues.

The increasing frequency of these infections goes hand in hand with decreasing budgets for STD awareness, testing, and treatment. Over the past 15 years, “the purchasing power of the CDC’s budget for sexually transmitted disease prevention has declined 40%,” according to Dr. Edward Hook, the University of Alabama’s endowed professor of infectious disease research.

Additionally, 52% of local and state STD programs, which provide services like screening and treatment, usually for lower-income individuals, had their budgets cut in 2012. According to the CDC report, “the resurgence of syphilis, and particularly congenital syphilis is not an arbitrary event, but rather a symptom of a deteriorating public health infrastructure and lack of access to health care.”

With the current administration’s anti-science rhetoric and abstinence-only approach to sex ed, don’t expect a helping hand from Uncle Sam any time soon. If you’re sexually active and haven’t been checked recently, the CDC has a website to help you locate free and confidential testing and treatment services. And while abstinence is technically the only way to 100% prevent yourself from an infection, you might want to pick up a few of these just in case.


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