The State of STIs — CDC Reports an Alarming Rise in Syphilis
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new surveillance data on sexually transmitted infections (STIs). There were 2.5 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis reported in the United States in 2022. Rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia remain high, and rates of syphilis have gone up an alarming 80% since 2018.
In 2022 there were:
- 1.6 million cases of chlamydia, which is a 6.2% decrease since 2018
- 648,056 cases of gonorrhea, which is an 11% increase since 2018
- 207,255 cases of syphilis, which is an 80% increase since 2018
- 3,755 congenital syphilis cases, which is an 183% increase since 2018
As always, the number of cases reported to the CDC is likely lower than the actual number of infections. Many STIs have no symptoms. A person could easily not know they were infected. Even STIs without symptoms, however, can lead to long-term health issues like infertility. This is why regular screening is so important.
“Today’s data show the magnitude of the STI epidemic in this country and highlight the importance of staying vigilant in our prevention, screening, and treatment efforts. The rise in syphilis—a disease we once came close to eradicating—is particularly alarming,” said ASHA’s President Lynn Barclay. “Treatment is prevention, but this only works with widespread screening efforts that reach everyone.”
While anyone who is sexually active can get an STI, the data show that some groups are more affected. This includes young people (ages 15 to 24), gay and bisexual men, pregnant people, and some racial and ethnic minority groups. It is important to understand that these disparities are not explained by behavior. Instead, they reflect other inequities in our society such as poverty and a lack of access to quality health care.
Laura Bachmann, MD, MPH, Acting Director, CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, stressed that we have to do a better job reaching all people: “There are no shortcuts, and we have to meet people where they are. Some people face tremendous barriers to STI prevention and health services. So, the most important work is often outside the clinic, whether it be reaching out to communities with testing, interviewing patients to offer services to their partners, or delivering treatment directly to someone.”
Keep reading for more data and infection-specific analysis:
- While chlamydia rates are up slightly in men, rates continue to be much higher in women (621.2 cases per 100,000 women compared to 363.7 cases per 100,000 men).
- 57.7% of all cases of chlamydia in 2022 were reported among young people ages 15 to 24.
It can be hard to identify trends in chlamydia infection because this STI usually has no symptoms. A decrease in chlamydia rates from year to year could mean that fewer people are getting the infection, or it could mean that fewer people are being screened. In 2020, for example, there were far fewer cases of chlamydia reported to the CDC. Most experts agree that this was because the pandemic prevented too many people from getting tested.