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U.S. News

Sexually Transmitted Disease Rates Soar: CDC

January 14, 2009

On Tuesday, CDC said new 2007 data on reportable STDs show overall rates of syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea are unacceptably high.

In 2007, cases of chlamydia reached their highest level ever with 1.1 million, up from roughly 1 million in 2006, representing an annual increase of 7.5 percent, said CDC's report. More than 350,000 cases of gonorrhea were reported that year -- essentially unchanged from 2006, the agency said. Approximately 11,466 syphilis cases were logged in 2007, representing a 15 percent rise from 2006. Syphilis has increased every year since the beginning of the decade -- its rate is up 81 percent from a record low level in 2000, when officials thought it was on the verge of elimination.

The unprecedented levels of chlamydia may reflect more testing and diagnoses rather than a rise in infections, said Dr. John Douglas, head of CDC's STD division. Untreated, chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility in women, among other health concerns. "Of all the causes of infertility, this is probably the most preventable -- since these infections can be prevented, diagnosed, and treated," he said. In men, untreated gonorrhea can cause infertility and can spread to the blood or joints and be life-threatening.

The data show African Americans are disproportionately affected: Blacks comprise 12 percent of the US population but account for 70 percent of gonorrhea cases and nearly half of chlamydia and syphilis cases, CDC said. Black women ages 15-19 have the highest rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea, and gonorrhea rates for African Americans overall were 19 times higher than for whites, the report found.

Gay and bisexual men accounted for 65 percent of syphilis cases in 2007, Douglas said. Many of the cases involve HIV-positive men who choose other HIV-positive men as sexual partners. "Within that relationship, they are less concerned about the transmission of other conditions. They're not using condoms," he noted. "They believe that their partner has already got the worst they can get -- they've got an HIV infection."

According to CDC, when all STDs are factored in -- including human papillomavirus and herpes -- the United States logs almost 19 million new infections annually, with nearly half among those ages 15-24.

Douglas said preventing STDs should be a priority. Teens can delay the start of sexual activity, and people can limit their number of sexual partners and use condoms. "Condoms have risk-reduction value for every sexually transmitted condition," he stressed.

The report is available online at

Back to other news for January 2009

Adapted from:
01.13.09; Will Dunham

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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