Sexually Transmitted Diseases Increased to Record High: CDC

And with no signs of slowing

By William M Briggs Published on October 2, 2017

About 1 out of every 3 Americans, or roughly 34%, have an STD. This is according to the Centers for Disease Control’s new 2016 Sexually Transmitted Diseases Surveillance report.

“More than two million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were reported in the United States in 2016, the highest number ever,” according to the report. The CDC announces this as a “record high.”

Chlamydia is up about 5% over 2015. Gonorrhea rates increased about 19%, early syphilis about 18%, and congenital syphilis was up nearly 28%.

The New York Times reports, “At any given time, there are an estimated 110 million sexually transmitted infections in the United States.” There were about 321 million people in the USA in 2015. Hence about 1 out of 3 had some sort of STD. This includes people of all ages, and all sexually transmitted infections, such as the human papillomavirus HPV, which the CDC says “is so common that nearly all sexually active people get it at some point in their lives”.

Jonathan Mermin is the director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. He said, “Increases in STDs are a clear warning of a growing threat. STDs are a persistent enemy, growing in number, and outpacing our ability to respond.”

Perhaps the most shocking statistics is the increase of newborns with syphilis. That number has risen from 461 in 2014 to 628 new cases in 2016.

Syphilis rates increased by nearly 18 percent overall from 2015 to 2016. The majority of these cases occur among men — especially gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) — however, there was a 36 percent increase in rates of syphilis among women, and a 28 percent increase in syphilis among newborns (congenital syphilis) during this period.


HIV and AIDS (the late stage of HIV) are tracked separately and not listed as STDs in the report. That’s because HIV can be transmitted by means other than sex. Other sexually associated diseases, such as anal cancer, are also not included in the report.

HIV rates are separately tracked by the CDC, however, and as of this writing only the 2015 numbers are available.

The number of new HIV (any stage) cases has been holding fairly steady, and is even down slightly from 2010. About 32,000 new cases among men, 7,420 new cases among women, and 120 new cases among children (of both sex) were reported in 2015. Some 27,600 of the cases among men, or 86%, were due to men who have sex with men (MSM). Among women, 87% of new cases were contracted heterosexually (MSW). Injection drug use for both sexes accounted for nearly all of the other remaining cases.


According to a study of sexual orientation by the CDC, about 1.8% of men report being “gay” and about 0.4% report being “bisexual,” which gives about 2.2% of MSM. Since about 49.1% of the United States population are males, there were in 2015 roughly 3.5 million MSM. This includes men of all ages, and is on the high side as an estimate of actual sexual activity.

The number of new cases of HIV was therefore around 1% of MSM.

There were in 2014 (the latest year available) about 722,000 total males living with HIV/AIDS, of which about 77% were associated with MSM. The rate of total HIV/AIDS infection among all MSM is thus about 17%. The actual rate among the sexually active will likely be higher since this calculation includes males of all ages.

Anal Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, there will be about “8,200 new anal cancer cases in 2017.” Most of these cases will be among HIV-positive MSM. Such men are “are 100 times more likely to have anal cancer than HIV-negative men who exclusively have sex with women.”

By far the majority of anal cancers, among both men and women, are caused by inserting objects in the anus. This includes objects associated with sexual activity.

MSM versus MSW

The CDC emphasizes that “the incidence of many STDs in gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (collectively referred to as MSM) — including primary and secondary (P&S) syphilis and antimicrobial-resistant gonorrhea — is greater than that reported in women and men who have sex with women only (MSW).”

They say “the relatively high incidence of STD infection among MSM may be related to multiple factors, including individual behaviors and sexual network characteristics” such as “number of lifetime or recent sex partners, rate of partner exchange, and frequency of condomless sex.”

The rates of STDs among MSM are much higher than for MSW. “MSM accounted for 80.6% of male [primary and secondary] syphilis cases.” Also, “Estimated gonorrhea incidence among MSM increased 151.0% across the study period from 1,368.6 cases per 100,000 MSM in 2010 to 3,434.7 cases per 100,000 MSM in 2015.” The rate of gonorrhea infection for MSM is well over 3,000 times higher than the rate of men who have sex with women. Higher rates are found for chlamydia, too.

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