Despite increased awareness and medical advancement, young people in Pennsylvania and the United States at large are facing a massive resurgence of sexually-transmitted diseases.
Dr. Frank DiCenco, of AHN’s Premier Women’s Health in Sewickley, PA, is “quite concerned.” DiCenco and his practice have “seen an uptick in the number of Gonorrhea and Chlamydia cases,” concluding that “the younger population is more promiscuous today than probably ever before.”
Gonorrhea, in particular, was up by 34%, while HIV increased by nearly 300%. Allegheny County Health Department Director Dr. Karen Hacker has stated that “incidence rates for Syphilis, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and HIV have and continue to exceed the state’s incidence rates.”
But the problem is not merely local, nor even statewide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, STDs have reached a “record high, indicating urgent need for prevention.” Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis were largely responsible for the more than two million cases of sexually transmitted disease reported in 2016 — the highest number ever on record.
Jonathan Mermin, M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, called STDs “a persistent enemy, growing in number,” that are “outpacing our ability to respond.” A heartbreaking 600 cases of congenital syphilis were reported that year, resulting in numerous complications and infant fatalities that Mermin says could have been easily prevented by “a simple STD test and antibiotic treatment.”
Their recommendations are comprehensive and would require real initiative and cooperation. First, “state and local health departments should refocus efforts on STD investigation and clinical service infrastructure for rapid detection and treatment for people living in areas hardest hit by the STD epidemic.”
Next, “providers should make STD screening and timely treatment a standard part of medical care, especially for pregnant women and MSM. They should also try to seamlessly integrate STD screening and treatment into prenatal care and HIV prevention and care services.” And finally, “everyone should talk openly about STDs, get tested regularly, and reduce risk by using condoms or practicing mutual monogamy if sexually active.”
In all cases, it seems that a focus on proactive diagnosis and treatment is in order, more so because so many may be STD carriers but display no symptoms. And while using a condom will prevent the vast majority of unaware infection, they are only helpful so long as people understand the critical need for safety.