The infection rate for sexually transmitted diseases among African Americans and Hispanics, particularly young people, continues to be greater than that of whites, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's annual report.
Overall, sexually transmitted diseases continue to plague the population, with 19 million new infections occurring every year — costing the U.S. health care system $17 billion annually, according to a report released today that tracks the three reportable diseases chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.
"Unfortunately, we are seeing a disproportionate burden of the STDs among African Americans and Hispanics and young people," Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDs, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, told The Root in a telephone interview. "These trends reflect the harsh realities of socioeconomic disadvantages that are taking place as a result of the economic downturn. The people contracting the diseases likely do not have access to health care. Other factors include employment. All of these things need to be addressed through education in the community.”
The stark results from 2010 data are as follows: While blacks represent just 14 percent of the population, they account for 35 percent of all reported chlamydia cases, nearly half of syphilis cases (48 percent) and almost three-quarters (69 percent) of gonorrhea cases.
Further, the syphilis rate among young black men has increased dramatically in recent years (134 percent since 2006). Other CDC data suggest that this rise is likely driven by increases among young black gay and bisexual men, the report says. The overall syphilis rate decreased for the first time in a decade and is down 1.6 percent since 2009.
For chlamydia, case reports have been increasing steadily over the past 20 years, and in 2010, 1.3 million cases were reported, the report says. While the increase is due to expanded screening efforts and not to an actual increase in the number of people with chlamydia, a majority of infections still go undiagnosed, the report shows.
While reported rates are at historically low levels for gonorrhea, cases increased slightly from last year, and more than 300,000 cases were reported in 2010, according to the report. There are also signs from other CDC surveillance systems that the disease may become resistant to the only available treatment option.
While most STDs are treatable, left undetected, they can cause serious, lifelong consequences, including infertility in women. The CDC recommends education, medical screening and practicing safe sex to avoid the spread of STDs.
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