The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new data showing that nearly 1 in 5 Americans have a sexually transmitted infection.
The data comes from an analysis of information for 2018, the most recent year available. On any given day in 2018, about 68 million Americans had a sexually transmitted infection, or STI.
About 26 million of the total number who have an STI, acquired their infection in 2018. Of those new infections in 2018, about half were contracted by people between the ages of 15 and 24.
“At a time when STIs are at an all-time high, they have fallen out of the national conversation. Yet, STIs are a preventable and treatable national health threat with substantial personal and economic impact. There is an urgent need to reverse the trend of increasing STIs, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected many STI prevention services,” said Jonathan Mermin, M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention.
The CDC estimates that those 26 million new infections in 2018 will result in nearly $16 billion in lifetime medical costs.
HIV infections are the costliest STI to treat, according to the CDC data, because of the need for lifetime treatment and the cost of that treatment. HPV infections are also costly because of the treatment for HPV-related cancers.
The CDC’s analysis showed ongoing disproportionate numbers of STI’s among certain racial and ethnic groups, in addition to more young adults and more women.
“At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating racial and ethnic health disparities, straining the public health infrastructure, and creating additional challenges to delivering healthcare services, new strategies for increasing access to quality sexual healthcare are critical,” the CDC states.
The agency suggests using strategies being adapted now for the COVID-19 pandemic to be applied to diagnosing and preventing STIs, including opening up new testing and access points like pharmacies and telehealth.