Sexually transmitted disease (STD) infections in the United States continued to rise in 2020, with cases of gonorrhea and syphilis in particular surpassing their 2019 levels. Apparent declines in total reported STDs early in the year were likely driven by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted STD surveillance and treatment efforts across the country and continues to impact our healthcare system.
According to a report released this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2.4 million cases of STDs were reported in the U.S. in 2020. Congenital syphilis saw the most dramatic increase, with cases rising by almost 15 percent since 2019 and by 235 percent since 2016, while gonorrhea and primary and secondary syphilis cases increased by 10 percent and 7 percent from 2019, respectively. The report also found that some racial and ethnic minority groups, gay and bisexual men, and young people continue to experience higher rates of STDs.
Reported cases of chlamydia fell by 13 percent, however, while overall STD cases fell dramatically in the early months of 2020. According to the report, these apparent declines were likely driven not by an actual reduction in new infections but rather by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to reductions in STD screenings by providers, caused resource and supply shortages, and led many patients to delay or avoid making healthcare visits.
“There were moments in 2020 when it felt like the world was standing still,” according to Dr. Jonathan Mermin, Director of CDC’s National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. “But STDs weren’t. The unrelenting momentum of the STD epidemic continued even as STD prevention services were disrupted.”
To read the full CDC report, visit https://www.cdc.gov/std/statistics/2020/default.htm.