How did the US population fare in 2012
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released the report Sexually Transmitted Diseases Surveillance, 2012,1 an annual update of sexually transmitted disease (STD) statistics and trends in the US. This report includes the rates and trends of STD data in the US through 2012.
Chlamydia continues to be the most commonly reported bacterial STD in the US with 1.4 million new cases. In the last two decades, rates of chlamydia infection have increased significantly. Most of this increase have been attributed to improved screening and diagnostic tests. However, a true increase in infection prevalence is probably responsible for part of the rise as well. It is important to note that chlamydia infection does not cause symptoms in most people, and many infections are never diagnosed or reported. Young people aged 15-24 years continue to have the highest rate of this infection accounting for 70% of all new cases of chlamydia in 2012.1 Certain racial/ethnic groups continue to be disproportionately affected by this infection, with rates among blacks and Hispanics being about 7 times and 2 times the rate of chlamydia infection in non-Hispanic whites, respectively.
Gonorrhea, the second most commonly reported bacterial STD in the US also recorded more new cases in 2012. Rates of gonorrhea infection have shown a steady but sustained increase every year since 2009. This was after rates had fallen remarkably for over two decades. Unfortunately, there now seems to be an emerging resurgence of this infection which may be as a result of a growing resistant strain of Neisseria gonorrhea. Similar to chlamydia, certain racial and ethnic groups are disproportionately affected. Gonorrhea infection rates are 15 times higher in blacks and 2 times higher in Hispanics than among non-Hispanic whites. Young people aged 15-24 years have the highest infection rates and account for about 60% of all new infections.
Syphilis, a bacterial STD that could cause ulcers and increase one’s risk of contracting or transmitting HIV recorded a rise in 2012. The rise has been predominantly in young men who have sex with men. Young men aged 20-29 years have had the highest rates in the last five years. Most young men with syphilis are also infected with HIV. The occurrence bolsters the public health significance of uncontrolled spread of syphilis. Racial disparities also persist in reported syphilis cases. Compared to non-Hispanic whites, blacks and Hispanics have about 6 times and 2 times the rate of new infections, respectively.
The CDC report on STD surveillance usually includes infection rates for notifiable diseases, i.e., diseases that must be reported to local or state authorities when a diagnosis is made. Consequently, many STIs that are not notifiable such as HPV, genital herpes, and trichomoniasis are not included in this report. Surveillance information about HIV, which is a notifiable disease, is published in a separate report. It is important to note that not all cases may have been reported to the CDC each year. As a result the true number of new cases of STIs each year is more than the number reported. The 2012 STD surveillance report is not an exhaustive account of the status of STIs in the US. However, the information that is conveyed in the recent surveillance report does highlight the increased transmission of some STIs. Young people continue to represent the worst hit demographic.
Most STIs may not present with symptoms and as a result, many of those infected are unaware and thus will not seek testing and possible treatment. Continued spread of these infections is possible in such a scenario. The increasing prevalence of STDs is not without medical, social and economic costs to infected people and the larger society. The Medical Institute supports early diagnosis and treatment of infected individuals. Additionally, we advocate risk avoidance measures to help stem the tide of STDs and reverse the current trend.
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 2012. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2013. Available at: Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance 2012. Accessed: January 24, 2014.
Fast Fact for the Month
HPV is the most common STD in the US. About 79 million women aged 14 – 59 years are infected with HPV, and young women aged 20-24 years have the highest rates of infection.
Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention. HPV Fact Sheet. Available at Genital HPV Infection – Fact Sheet. Accessed January 27, 2014
“Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance – How did the US population fare in 2012?,” Medical Institute for Sexual Health e-newsletter, 29 January 2014. Accessed 30 January 2014.