STD Statistics 2018: This Is Why More Americans Are Getting STDs

In 2018, the CDC reported that cases of a handful of STDs were higher in the past two years than they have been in the past several decades.

Some suggested that dating apps may be leading to an increase in “casual sex” and resulting STDs. Most health experts, however, believe there are much more evidence-based factors behind the alarming statistics.

Here are a few possible reasons — not Tinder — that officials are seeing an increase in the number of reported sexually transmitted diseases.

Super gonorrhea: Another antibiotic-resistant infection

researcher working in biology lab

Research scientist | Gorodenkoff/iStock/Getty Images

Dating apps probably aren’t the root cause of the rise in cases of STDs such as gonorrhea. But an increased use of antibiotics to treat the infection might be.

You probably don’t think about superbugs when you imagine the world coming to an apocalyptic end. But decades of antibiotic overuse have put us all at greater risk of facing bacterial infections we aren’t equipped to contain.

It’s possible that continuing to treat gonorrhea with antibiotics could create a drug-resistant infection some have coined “super gonorrhea.” Most cases of the infection can be treated with antibiotics just fine. But a continued rise in the number of cases could be making things even worse.

STD symptoms: Why do so many cases go undiagnosed?

Even though many STDs are treatable, undiagnosed cases can cause major health issues down the line. With infections such as gonorrhea, individuals can’t always rely on symptoms to tell them something’s wrong. Often, there aren’t any. The infection often lurks and spreads unknowingly.

Aside from unknowingly infecting a sexual partner, untreated STDs can result in infertility, an increased risk of HIV, and more.

If you know you have an STD, treatment is fairly simple and straightforward. Usually, for example, a round of antibiotics clears up gonorrhea without issue. But you can’t get treated for an infection if you don’t know you have it. And unfortunately, not everyone has access to proper testing.

Why isn’t STD testing a standard health care practice?

Planned Parenthood Location

Planned Parenthood Location. | jetcityimage/iStock/Getty Images

Facilities such as Planned Parenthood have long since offered free opportunities for individuals and their partners to get tested for STDs. Public health programs like these are essential. Not everyone has equal access to testing — and that’s a problem.

Gail Bolan, M.D. is the director of the Division of STD Prevention at the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. In 2017, Bolan published a report highlighting the importance of public health programs aimed at preventing STDs and their side effects, writing:

The resurgence of syphilis, and particularly congenital syphilis, is not an arbitrary event, but rather a symptom of a deteriorating public health infrastructure and lack of access to health care … This points to our need for public health and health care action for each of the cases in this report, as they represent real people, not just numbers.

STD screening and treatment aren’t currently a routine part of standard health care. And there’s still such a stigma surrounding the topic that many individuals — especially young people, who are especially vulnerable — don’t bring it up with their providers when they need to.

Relying on antibiotics, symptoms, and built-in STD screenings aren’t enough — and the numbers show it. Preventative efforts are no longer optional.