Sexually transmitted diseases in the U.S. - Statistics & Facts

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), also known as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and venereal diseases (VD), are infections that are spread through sexual contact. Common types of STDs include chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, genital herpes, and the human papillomavirus (HPV). The spread of STDs can be prevented through abstinence, education, STD testing, vaccination and the use of condoms. However, from 2011 to 2015, around 42 percent of women aged 20 to 24 years reported they had not used condoms in the past year, while only 27 percent of men aged 23 to 25 stated they had received an STD test from 2013 to 2015.

Such information may explain a rise in the number of cases of various STDs in recent years. In 2016, the rate of chlamydia in the U.S. reached its highest level since 1985, with an estimated 497 people per 100,000 population suffering from the disease. Rates of chlamydia were highest among women aged 20 to 24 years in 2016, and the state of Alaska reported the highest rates of any U.S. state in 2017 at a rate of 768 per 100,000 population.

Similarly, the number of reported cases of gonorrhea has also risen steadily in recent years. In 2016, there were approximately 468,514 reported cases of this STD, the highest number since 1990. In that same year, gonorrhea affected males and females aged 20 to 24 years almost equally, but disproportionately affected African Americans of both genders. Following a similar trend, the number of cases of syphilis reached a recent high in 2016, with men who have sex only with men accounting for around 52 percent of such cases.

Although the risk of contracting an STD can be mitigated, many people fail to follow simple preventive measures, or lack the knowledge to do so. For example, although over 65 percent of female adolescents had received an HPV vaccination as of 2016, only around 56 percent of males had done so. Health care professionals have cited parents not perceiving their child to be at risk for acquiring an STD as the main factor contributing to this HPV vaccination underutilization. Additionally, despite mass coverage of the Zika virus outbreak by the media, less than half of all those aged 18 to 64 years were aware that the virus can be contacted through sex with someone who has the virus.

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