flu_shots_web.jpgThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in its annual report on sexually transmitted diseases in the United States, said STDs continue to be a big burden on African Americans.

But the CDC, in the report using data from 2009, said some signs of progress were seen.

The STD surveillance report includes data on the three STDs – chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis – that physicians are required to report to CDC but which represent only a fraction of the problem of STDs in the country.

Some common STDs, such as human papillomavirus (HPV) and genital herpes, are not reported to the CDC. 

In total, the CDC estimates that about 19 million new STD infections occur each year, costing the U.S. healthcare system $16.4 billion annually.

The key findings of the report are:

• African Americans comprise 14 percent of the U.S. population but accounted for about half of all chlamydia (48 percent) and syphilis (52 percent) cases and nearly three-quarters of gonorrhea (71 percent) cases in 2009.

• Reported syphilis cases among young back men (aged 15-24) have tripled since 2005 (from 19.3 to 58.2 cases per 100,000 people), which was seen to be a new trend that caused concern.

A range of factors contribute to these racial disparities, including poverty, lack of access to health care and an already high prevalence of STDs in communities of color that increases a person’s risk of infection with each sexual encounter. 

• The national rate of gonorrhea is at its lowest level since records were started to be kept in 1941 and cases are declining among all racial/ethnic groups, down 15 percent among African Americans since 2006.

• Continuing increases in the national chlamydia rate, up 19 percent since 2006,  suggest that more people than ever are getting screened for the disease which is one of the most widespread STDs in the United States.

• For the first time in five years, syphilis rates did not increase among women overall, which was seen as a promising sign, following an 88 percent increase from 2004 to 2008.

Untreated STDs increase a person’s risk for HIV and can cause other serious health consequences, such as infertility.  STD screening can help detect disease early and, when combined with treatment, is one of the most effective methods available to protect one’s health and prevent transmission to others, a CDC statement said.

Yet, less than half of the people who should be screened are getting tested for STDs, the statement added.