A report released last week from the California Department of Public Health found that the number of sexually transmitted diseases in the state is growing at a rate that is outpacing other states in the country and is at a 20 year high.
“Cases of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia are going up in California at a concerning rate,” said CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith. “This is the second year in a row that we have seen increases in all three diseases.”
The report found a total of 249,224 reportable cases of STDs in California for 2015, with the following breakdown: 189,937 cases of chlamydia; 54,255 cases of gonorrhea; and 4,890 cases of primary and secondary syphilis (the most infectious stages of this disease) and 142 cases of congenital syphilis.
These numbers indicate an 11.6 percent increase in reportable STDs in California since 2014, when the total number was 223,269. The CDPH pointed to a number of factors that could account for the increase in STDs, including changes in sexual behavior such as declines in condom use and an increase in different sexual partners, as well as barriers to access to care and testing and improved public health reporting.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released national STD data earlier this week, reporting that cases of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia have reached a record high level in the U.S., with the largest increase being in cases (19 percent) of syphilis.
Within Stanislaus County there was an overall increase of 4 percent in sexually transmitted diseases in 2015. The rate of chlamydia cases has been on the rise since 2013, according to the data. The number of gonorrhea and syphilis cases dropped in 2015 from the rate recorded in 2014, but remain higher than the rate seen in 2013.
Stanislaus County recorded 2,552 cases of chlamydia in 2015, according to the CDPH report. The rate is up from the 2,240 reported in 2014 and the 1,814 in 2013. Of the number reported in 2015, 1,892 were reported among women and 658 among men, with two undeclared. Woman between the ages of 15 to 44 accounted for 1,799 cases and men in the same age range made up 601 cases.
The county reported 761 cases of gonorrhea in 2015, which is down slightly from the 783 reported in 2014, but up significantly from the 552 reported in 2013. Of the cases reported in 2015, females accounted for 317 and males accounted for 444 cases.
The number of primary and secondary cases of syphilis was at 68 in Stanislaus County for 2015. The rate is down a little from the 76 recorded in 2014 and up from the 57 reported in 2013. Females made up 17 of the 2015 cases and males accounted for 51.
California’s STD rates continue to be highest in young people 15-24 years of age and especially females. More than 63 percent of the state’s female chlamydia cases and more than 51 percent of female gonorrhea cases are in this age range. These young women are the most vulnerable to infertility and other serious long-term reproductive health problems caused by STDs.
Gay and bisexual men in California are also at high risk. Men who have sex with men account for more than 62 percent of the state’s gonorrhea cases in males and 84 percent of primary and secondary syphilis cases in males, according to the CDPH report.
“Using condoms regularly and correctly, reducing the number of sexual partners and being in a monogamous relationship can dramatically reduce risk of contracting an STD,” said Dr. Smith. “In addition, I urge sexually active individuals to get tested regularly. With these measures, we can stem the rising tide of STDs in California.”
To help reduce the STD rate in California, CDPH is in the process of distributing $5 million in grants to local health departments for expansion of STD prevention, testing and treatment programs. In January of this year, California also enacted the California Healthy Youth Act, requiring comprehensive sexual health education to help young people make informed choices about how to protect themselves and their partners.