Report shows increase in cases of sexually transmitted diseases in California

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Dani Sundell/Senior Staff

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In a record year for instances of sexually transmitted disease across the country, California in 2015 experienced its highest number of overall cases and an increase in the three most commonly-reported diseases — chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.

In October, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention released its annual Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report. According to the report, people ages 15 to 24 years old accounted for nearly two-thirds of chlamydia diagnoses and half of gonorrhea diagnoses. An increasing rate of STDs among men contributed to the net increase of all STDs in 2015.

The report indicated a dramatic increase in the number of female syphilis diagnoses — up by more than 27 percent from 2014 to 2015.  While the increase from 2014 to 2015 is significant, it is in keeping with recent trends, said campus Sexual Health Education Program, or SHEP, “sexpert” Reyna Perez.

SHEP provides free and confidential clinic hours at the Tang Center for UC Berkeley students to talk about sex with a student sexpert and offers free condoms and monthly HIV testing.

STDs are a considerable public health issue facing the United States, according to the CDC. Though STDs are very common, they often go undiagnosed when infected people do not present symptoms. More than half of the population will transmit some form of an STD in their lifetime, according to Planned Parenthood.

A press release by the CDC stated that adolescents and gay or bisexual men are the most at risk of STD infection.

“We have reached a decisive moment for the nation,” said Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, in a press release.

The report indicates that the overall increase in STDs is widespread but does not point to one singular source as responsible for the uptick.

“Increases in STDs could indicate a number of things, including changes in sexual behavior, increased awareness of the symptoms, better access to care and testing services, and/or improved public health reporting,” said Jorge De la Cruz, a spokesperson for the California Department of Public Health, in an email.

In the CDC press release, Mermin described the country’s systems for preventing STDs as “eroded” and called for an expansion of services.

“The education and the awareness that needs to happen is simply lacking,” said Gerard Brogan, lead nursing practice representative for the California Nurses Association.

Brogan said the country’s privatized health system does not effectively prioritize disease prevention — an important tactic in limiting the rise of STDs.

Because of the asymptomatic nature of many STDs, the California Public Health Department advises that sexually active individuals seek regular screenings to avoid unintentionally spreading disease.

“We’re seeing a lot of people not accessing the health care system because of extremely high copays,” Brogan said. “Making the dreadful decision to either put food on the table or go to the clinic is unfair.”

Contact Audrey McNamara at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @McNamaraAud.