Recently the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that cases of sexually transmitted diseases in the United States are at an all-time high, according to the organization’s annual Sexually Transmitted Diseases Surveillance report. Rates of gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia rose for a second consecutive year (note: herpes and human papillomavirus infection are not tracked by the CDC). Reported cases of primary and secondary syphilis rose by 19 percent, gonorrhea rose by 12.8%, and chlamydia rose by 5.9%, from 2014.

According to a statement from Gail Bolan, M.D., Director, Division of STD Prevention, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “… Not that long ago, gonorrhea rates were at historic lows, syphilis was close to elimination, and we were able to point to advances in STD prevention, such as better chlamydia diagnostic tests and more screening, contributing to increases in detection and treatment of chlamydial infections. That progress has since unraveled…”

This is remarkably so for young adults. According to the report, Americans aged 15 to 24 accounted for almost half of gonorrhea cases and two-thirds of chlamydia cases. The CDC noted that there could be several reasons for this increase, including the erosion of STD prevention programs through budget cuts.

STDs Have Severe Consequences

STD infection has severe consequences for young adults. Chlamydia can lead to infertility in women.  Syphilis and gonorrhea in pregnant women can be dangerous for their babies, potentially leading to stillbirth or death of a newborn. The majority of STDs are treatable with antibiotics, but you can’t be treated until you’re tested and diagnosed. Some people may not realize they are infected until they receive a screening test.

The CDC has screening guidelines for each STD, but many people are unaware or choose not to follow them.  Due to stigmas surrounding STDs it can be difficult for a physician to initiate a conversation with a patient about screening and vice versa, or a parent to initiate a conversation with either. However, it is important to understand these guidelines, have these conversations and get tested to reduce risk of transmission.