The number of Americans newly infected with syphilis has fallen for the first time in a decade, but sexually transmitted diseases continue to take a staggering toll on the United States, with 19 million new infections each year at a cost of $17 billion annually.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's on sexually transmitted diseases, which tracks cases of the three reportable STDs, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, shows widespread disparities.
Overall, blacks and Hispanics in the United States are far more affected by sexually transmitted diseases than whites, as are young people, according to the annual report, which looks at data from 2010.
"Despite everything we know about how to prevent and treat STDs, they remain one of the more critical challenges in the United States today," Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, said in a telephone interview.
While people aged 15 to 24 make up just a quarter of the sexually experienced population in the United States, they represent nearly half of all new .
The data really confirms that STDs primarily affect young people, and we know that this is of major concern because the health consequences can and do last a lifetime if they are untreated," Fenton said.
The report also found a disproportionate burden of disease among African Americans and Hispanics, Fenton said.
For example, he said rates of chlamydia among African Americans are about 1,383 per 100,000, compared with 467 per 100,000 among Hispanics and 166 per 100,000 for whites.
There are similar patterns for gonorrhea and syphilis.
For gonorrhea, rates for whites are 26 per 100,000. Among Hispanics, rates are about three times that at 63 per 100,000, and among African Americans, the rates are 512 per 100,000.
And while overall rates of syphilis have fallen, there are still wide disparities across ethnic groups, with rates ranging from about 2.4 per 100,000 for whites, 5.9 per 100,000 Hispanics and 20 per 100,000 for African Americans.
"It's not because someone is black or Hispanic or white that results in the differences that we see in STDs. It's really what these represent in terms of differences in health , employment status, in ability to access preventive services or curative services. These are all factors which are going to have a huge impact on communities as well as individuals who are vulnerable to acquiring STDs or not getting them diagnosed early," Fenton said.
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