A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2018 shows that sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) are on the rise.
Here are the hard facts from the CDC
- Doctors diagnosed gonorrhea 67% more in 2018 than in 2017 in women. This means that gonorrhea increased from 333,004 cases to 555,608 cases in women in just 1 year. In men there was an increase from 169,130 cases in 2017 to 322,169 cases in 2018. This is an increase of almost double the cases.
- Syphilis diagnoses have increased by 76% from 17,375 to 30,644 cases. 70% of syphilis cases are in men who are gay or bisexual.
- The most common sexually transmitted disease remains chlamydia. In 2017 more than 1.7million cases were diagnosed. 45% of these cases affected women in the age group of 15- to 24-years.
Concerns about antibiotic resistant gonorrhea
Since 2015 the standard of care has been to prescribe a single injection of ceftriaxone accompanied by an oral dose of azithromycin to people with gonorrhea. But resistant strains of azithromycin, present in 1 percent in 2013 have risen to more than 4 percent in 2017. There is a fear that some of the resistant genes among the gonorrhea strains could cross over to gonorrhea strains with reduced susceptibility to ceftriaxone. The end result would be completely resistant gonorrhea strains, where no treatment is effective.
Other STD’s associated with frequent partner changes
It is a fact that HIV/AIDS is prevalent in persons with frequent partner changes. Another viral illness that is still very common is hepatitis C. It is also common among people who inject illegal drugs. In some areas hepatitis A and B are also common. There are vaccines available against hepatitis A and B, so in industrialized nations vaccinations with these vaccines have helped to control these diseases. But HIV/AIDS is more difficult to control. It takes an effort on the part of the patient to visit the public health facility for blood tests and to take the cocktail of pills with antibiotics against the retro virus until eventually HIV/AIDS can be considered cured. This can be a process that spans over 1 to 2 years or more.
Tuberculosis (TB), in particular drug-resistant TB, is an emerging problem. Essentially TB which is transmitted by droplets through saliva, by talking, singing or coughing affects the airways, lungs and eventually distant organs. But if it is resistant to all of the known antibiotics TB takes the same destructive course it always used to take in the past, and eventually the patient dies.
In the past it was easy to treat STD’s. Some decades back the physician just had to treat with the appropriate antibiotic, and gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia were cured. In the meantime STD’s often occur along with hepatitis, with drug-resistant tuberculosis and with HIV/AIDS. This makes treatment so much more complicated. The key is to have initial cultures and to repeat them from time to time until the STD’s have disappeared. More complex cases need a referral to an infection specialist at one of the university clinics that specialize in infectious diseases.
Prevention of STD’s
From the patient’s point of view it is important to use condoms for sex. This interrupts the spread of infection at least 70 to 80%. Otherwise it helps, if the patient cuts down the frequency of partner changes. It is this aspect that has led to the increase of STD’s lately. There is a new group of people who were not present as much in the past: older single people and single persons after separations and divorces. There is a resurgence of STD’s in the senior population.
One word of caution: before you think of having sex, both partners need to see a physician for blood tests and swabs to check for STD’s. This too will help to cut down on STD’s. This is not a sign of distrust to the partner. It is the responsibility of both to be concerned about their health.