The United States is currently facing a crisis with an alarming increase in sexually transmitted infections (STIs). According to the National Coalition of STD Directors, the situation is “out-of-control.” This warning came following the release of a report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on STI data for the year. The frustration and concern of public health officials are evident in the CDC’s statement that over 2.5 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis were reported in the country once again.

Although chlamydia remains the most common STI in the US, the recent surge in syphilis cases is particularly troubling for health officials. The CDC data shows that cases of syphilis at all stages have risen by 80 percent in the past five years. It is not just adults who are at risk of contracting syphilis; babies are also vulnerable. When a child gets syphilis from the mother during pregnancy or birth, it is referred to as congenital syphilis. Shockingly, there has been a 937 percent increase in reported cases of congenital syphilis in the past decade, with over 3,700 cases in 2022 alone.

While it is encouraging that syphilis is curable with the right antibiotics, the real issue lies in the lack of timely diagnosis and treatment. If left untreated, syphilis can cause irreversible harm to the body, especially in babies. It can lead to developmental delays, seizures, and even death. In adults, the disease spreads through sexual contact and progresses through stages. The primary stage involves sores, while the secondary stage presents with rashes and flu-like symptoms. The infection is most contagious during the first two stages, but if it progresses to the third stage, it can be fatal.

The escalating cases of early-stage syphilis poses a significant threat to the health of babies across the nation. The number of cases of congenital syphilis has increased by 31 percent in just one year. Tragically, reports show that there were 282 stillbirths and infant deaths in 2022 due to these infections. Prompt testing and treatment during pregnancy could have prevented 88 percent of these cases, emphasizing the importance of early intervention.

Public health officials, including the CDC, are urging swift action and collaboration from all experts involved in STI prevention. Organizations like the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), the American Sexual Health Association, and the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSDDC) are also calling for immediate measures to address the escalating crisis.

While President Biden has initiated a plan to tackle the rising STI cases in the US, there is uncertainty surrounding the funding for these efforts. Despite the urgent need for resources to combat the situation, the White House’s 2025 budget blueprint does not include any increase in federal STI funding for the CDC. This lack of financial support jeopardizes the progress in STI prevention and treatment efforts, leaving public health officials grappling with the growing epidemic.


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