US reports ‘out of control’ venereal disease situation, highest number of syphilis cases in 40 years

(ORDO NEWS) — A spike in cases of some sexually transmitted diseases, including a 26% increase in new syphilis infections reported last year, is prompting US health officials to call for new prevention and treatment efforts.

“We need to … work to rebuild, innovate and expand prevention (STDs) in the US,” said Dr. Leandro Mena of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaking Monday at a medical conference on sexually transmitted diseases.

Infection rates for some sexually transmitted diseases, including gonorrhea and syphilis, have been on the rise for many years. Last year, the number of syphilis cases reached the highest level since 1991, and the total number of cases reached the highest level since 1948. The number of HIV cases is also on the rise, up 16% last year.

And the international outbreak of monkeypox, which spreads mostly between men who have sex with other men, has further highlighted the country’s worsening problem with diseases spread primarily through sex.

David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, called the situation “out of control.”

Officials are working on new approaches to address the problem, such as at-home test kits for some STDs, which would make it easier for people to know they are infected and take steps to prevent transmission to others, Mena said.

Another expert said that a major part of any effort should be to work to increase condom use.

“It’s very simple. More sexually transmitted infections occur when people have more unprotected sex,” said Dr. Mike Saag, an infectious disease expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Syphilis is a bacterial disease that presents as sores on the genitals, but can eventually lead to severe symptoms and death if left untreated.

The number of new cases of syphilis has declined sharply in the US since the 1940s, when antibiotics became widely available.

By 1998, with fewer than 7,000 new cases reported nationwide, the rate had fallen to its lowest ever. The CDC was so encouraged by the progress made that it launched a plan to eradicate syphilis in the United States.

But by 2002, cases began to rise again, mostly among gay and bisexual men, and continued to rise. At the end of 2013, the CDC ended the syphilis eradication campaign due to limited funding and an increase in the number of cases, which exceeded 17,000 that year.


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