General Articles

CDC Reports High STD Rates for 2008


Statement by Joseph DiNorcia, Jr., President and CEO of SIECUS
November 16, 2008 – It is not surprising news any more when the CDC releases a round of sexually transmitted disease (STD) statistics that highlight the crisis environment that exists in the United States. The latest data, released today, once again display that a host of infectious, but entirely preventable, STDs are at enormously high levels across the country. Not only are these STDs thriving, but they are concentrating their attack on some of the more vulnerable members of society: adolescent women and traditionally underserved groups, particularly the African-American community.
Among the findings from the CDC:
·         About 1.2 million cases of Chlamydia and 337,000 cases of gonorrhea were reported in 2008.
·         Adolescent girls, ages 15–19 years, had the largest reported number of Chlamydia and gonorrhea cases (409,531) when compared to any other age group, followed closely by women ages 20-24.
·         Gonorrhea rates among African-Americans are higher than any other racial or ethnic group and 20 times higher than that of whites.
·         Blacks represent 12 percent of the U.S. population, but accounted for about 71 percent of reported gonorrhea cases and almost half of all Chlamydia and syphilis cases (48 percent and 49 percent, respectively) in 2008.
While the data on these diseases is absolutely unacceptable, it is still only part of the picture. The same behaviors that lead to STD infection also lead to HIV infection and often unplanned pregnancy, and so, in fact this report does not fully reflect how grim the situation is.
The silver lining is that this report comes at time when policy and attitudinal shifts in the government have the potential to create an environment where new education and prevention measures are finally getting the respect and attention that they deserve. In an interview with Reuters, John Douglas, director of the division of sexually transmitted diseases at the CDC, recognized the importance of a comprehensive strategy to combat STDs, and the shortcomings of our strategy to date, saying, "We have been sending people out with one seatbelt in the whole car." We in the sex education community are very heartened by this sentiment and the fact that we have a leader who “gets it” in a position to change the way we talk, think, and act about STDs in this country, and we hope that Mr. Douglas continues to be a leader at the CDC and the broader sexual health and reproductive health community.
However, all of the good intentions in the world cannot defeat the STD epidemic unless the organizations and public health departments on the front lines of the fight have the resources they need to win. According to a survey of 64 health departments from across the nation, released today by the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD), 69% of public health STD programs received funding cuts in 2008–2009. These cuts resulted in salary freezes, furloughs, and layoffs across the board. At the time when we most need them to be fully funded and operational, our public health STD programs are being gutted.
It is the cold, hard truth that money is necessary in the fight against STDs. We know that times are tight for everyone right now, but it is a fact that the long-term costs of rampant STD infection, including HIV, are going to be much greater both in money and the health of Americans if we don’t deal with them right now.  We therefore reiterate our call not only for funding for state-based STD prevention efforts, but also that the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention at the CDC be adequately funded and that the CDC make full, comprehensive sex education the foundation of its current and future prevention efforts.