blood-test_web.jpgSexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are continuing to take an especially heavy toll among African Americans, particularly young people, and remain one of the most critical health challenges facing the nation today.

That is the conclusion of a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which released its annual snapshot of the three reportable STDs:  chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.

The CDC estimates that there are 19 million new infections every year, costing the U.S. health care system $17 billion annually.  While most STDs are treatable, left undetected they can cause serious, life-long consequences, including infertility, the CDC said.

While blacks comprise 14 percent of the U.S. population, they account for almost three-quarters (69%) of gonorrhea cases, nearly half of syphilis cases (48%) and 35 percent of all reported chlamydia cases, the CDC reported.

 Also, the syphilis rate among young black men has increased dramatically in recent years – 134 percent since 2006. The CDC data suggest the increase is likely driven by increases among young, black gay and bisexual men.

The report says that while STDs affect people of all races and ethnicities, some individuals experience greater challenges in protecting their health. Many of the same social and economic factors, such as economic hardship and lack of access to health care, that place some African Americans at risk for other diseases, such as  heart disease and diabetes,  also fuel the STD epidemic in many black communities. As a result, even with similar levels of individual risk, African Americans are more affected by STDs than other races and ethnicities, the CDC said.

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