AMERICA'S STD CRISIS: Cases of Syphilis and HIV spike as condom usage plummets

With decline in use of condoms, syphilis cases have gone up by 26% while HIV sees a 16% rise from last year, along with worsening rise in monkey pox

AMERICA'S STD CRISIS: Cases of Syphilis and HIV spike as condom usage plummets
Unprotected sex leads to sexually transmitted infections (David McNew/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON, DC, WASHINGTON: US health officials are now calling for urgent measures of prevention and treatment amidst the staggering rise in cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). This comes after infection rates were on a steady rise over several years, with a chief cause of concern being the decline in people using condoms

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On Monday, September 19, Dr Leandro Mena of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said, "It is imperative that we work to rebuild, innovate, and expand (STD) prevention in the US." The Daily Mail also reports that in 2021, the rate of increase of syphilis was 26%, highest since 1991, with the highest cases recorded in 1948. Similarly, HIV saw a 16% hike in comparison to last year. The sharp rise in STDs also comes amid the recent outbreak of monkeypox.

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A sign announcing monkeypox vaccination is setup in Tropical Park by Miami-Dade County and Nomi Health on August 15, 2022 in Miami, Florida. Miami-Dade continues to urge people to vaccinate as they work to get more vaccines now that the county has over 400 cases, which is the most in the state.
A sign announcing monkeypox vaccination is set up in Tropical Park by Miami-Dade County and Nomi Health on August 15, 2022, in Miami, Florida. Miami-Dade continues to urge people to vaccinate as they work to get more vaccines now that the county has over 400 cases, which is the most in the state. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The worsening outbreak of monkeypox across countries has added to the severity of the problem of soaring STDs. It has also brought to light the failure of the US in combatting the rise of sexually transmitted diseases, so much so that David Harvey, the executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors has described the current scenario as being "out of control."

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US health officials have been directed to carry out urgent measures of prevention and treatment. According to Dr Leandro Mena, they are working on tackling the situation through new methods. Accessible home-test kits for certain STDs are one such measure, making it easier for people to get tested the moment they show symptoms that become a cause of concern. Early detection of infections will lead to people taking preventative measures so that it doesn't spread to others. 

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The source also reports that awareness must be created about the importance of condoms. Dr Mike Saag, an infectious disease expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham reasons, "It's pretty simple. More sexually transmitted infections occur when people are having more unprotected sex."

If left untreated, STDs can have severe repercussions. Syphilis, a bacterial disease that shows itself through sores on the genitalia according to the CDC, may then progress to worse symptoms of skin rashes and/or mucous membrane lesions. These can then prove fatal, affecting other organs and even leading to death. 

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Syphilis
Men account for the most cases of syphilis, with the vast majority of those cases occurring among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) (Photo via CDC.gov)
Syphilis
New cases of syphilis infections declined during the 1940s when antibiotics became widely available (Photo via CDC)

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Syphilis
Hidden sores in the genitals are a symptom of the primary stage. Rashes and lesions develop in the secondary stage. Tertiary syphilis damages many internal organs and can result in death (Photo via CDC)

Speaking at a medical conference on sexually transmitted diseases, Mena stated that reducing the stigma around STDs, in addition to the improved and accessible methods of testing will be a game-changer in the treatment of all sexually transmitted diseases. "I envision one day where getting tested (for STDs) can be as simple and as affordable as doing a home pregnancy test," he added.

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