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STD Rates Rise In Wake Of Health Clinic Closures

Despite advancements in public health education, more people than ever are infected with three major sexually transmitted diseases, the Center for Disease Control announced in a report released on Oct. 19.

Reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis -- particularly among teenagers and young adults -- have shot up, with more than half of those who report that they have gonorrhea and syphilis under the age of 25, said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention for the CDC, according to NPR.

"Our ability to prevent STDs is only as strong as the public health infrastructure to support it," said Mermin. "More than half of state and local STD programs have experienced budget cuts. In 2012, 20 health departments reported having to close their STD clinics."

Though HIV and other more long-lasting STDS might get more public attention, the three on the rise can cause serious permanent damage such as chronic pain, fertility problems and, when passed on to infants by pregnant women, stillbirth or birth defects. Syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia can usually be effectively treated with antibiotics, though gonorrhea has become more and more resistant to them over the years.

Syphilis rates in particular spiked by a full 19 percent between 2014 and 2015, with 23,872 reported cases in the latter year. Gonorrhea showed a 6 percent rise in the same period, with 395,216 cases reported in 2015, while 1.5 million people caught chlamydia, a 13 percent increase since 2014.

"This basically tells us we have to do a better job of [reaching] out to some of these communities that are disproportionately affected by these infections," said Dr. Jose Bazan, a medical director for an STD clinic at Columbus Public Health and an assistant professor of internal medicine at Ohio State University.

Roughly 40 percent of health departments have reportedly reduced STD services, including limiting clinic hours, screening services and tracing for those exposed to infection. Many STD treatment and prevention sites, such as New York City's busiest free STD clinic, have abruptly closed since the start of 2015 after losing funding, notes STD education website What Is My Status.

"If that infrastructure gets eroded, people are more likely to have their STDs for a longer period of time, and that can lead to increased transmission," said Mermin, according to NPR.

Sources: NPR, What Is My Status / Photo credit: CDC

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