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
annual Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance
Report released today by the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC).
The majority of these new diagnoses (1.6 million)
were cases of chlamydia.
There were also 470,000 gonorrhea cases and almost
28,000 cases of primary and secondary syphilis – the
most infectious stages of the disease.
While all three of these STDs can be cured with
antibiotics, if left undiagnosed and untreated, they
can have serious health consequences, including
infertility, life-threatening ectopic pregnancy,
stillbirth in infants, and increased risk for HIV
“Increases in STDs are a clear warning of a growing
threat,” said Jonathan Mermin, M.D., M.P.H.,
director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS,
Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. “STDs are a
persistent enemy, growing in number, and outpacing
our ability to respond.”
While young women continue to bear the greatest
burden of chlamydia (nearly half of all diagnosed
infections), surges in syphilis and gonorrhea are
increasingly affecting new populations.
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
More than 600 cases of congenital syphilis were
reported in 2016, which has resulted in more than 40
deaths and severe health complications among
newborns. The disease is preventable through routine
screening and timely treatment for syphilis among
While gonorrhea increased among men and women in
2016, the steepest increases were seen among men (22
Research suggests that a large share of new
gonorrhea cases are occurring among MSM.
These trends are particularly alarming in light of
the growing threat of drug resistance to the last
remaining recommended gonorrhea treatment.
MSM also bear a great syphilis burden.
MSM make up a majority of syphilis cases, and half
of MSM diagnosed with syphilis were also living with
HIV – pointing to the need to integrate STD and HIV
prevention and care services.
CDC uses STD surveillance data and other tools to
detect and respond to these evolving threats and new
challenges, directing resources where they can have
the greatest impact.
Targeted efforts include:
Strengthening the congenital syphilis response
with focused efforts to improve diagnosis and
treatment of pregnant women and ensure prompt
treatment of newborns at birth in the ten states
hardest hit by congenital syphilis.
Helping state and local health departments
rapidly test for drug-resistant gonorrhea and
quickly find and treat affected individuals, as
part of the federal government’s Combating
Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria (CARB) Action
Assisting state health departments and health
clinics integrate STD prevention into care for
people living with HIV.
Maintaining and strengthening core prevention
infrastructure is also essential to mounting an
effective national response to the STD epidemic.
CDC provides support to state and local health
departments for disease surveillance, disease
investigation, and health promotion.
CDC also issues and maintains testing and treatment
guidelines for providers so individuals get the most
Turning back the rise in STDs will require renewed
commitment from all players:
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.
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.
Everyone should talk openly about STDs, get
tested regularly, and reduce risk by using
condoms or practicing mutual monogamy if
“CDC uses its national-level intelligence to detect
and respond to STD outbreaks while supporting the
nation’s on-the-ground workers who are spending each
day protecting communities from STDs,” Dr. Mermin
For more information
Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report
World Health Organisation
Sexual and reproductive health
Surveillance Atlas of Inectious Diseases