Reported cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis all increased between 2020 and 2021 – reaching a total of more than 2.5 million reported cases – according to CDC’s final surveillance data. To reverse this trend, CDC calls for more local, healthcare, industry, and public health groups to contribute to STI prevention and innovation efforts.
The new report provides final surveillance data for 2021 and shows that overall, in a single year (2020-2021):
Gonorrhea rates increased by more than 4%
Syphilis rates surged, increasing nearly 32% for combined stages of the infection.
Among the syphilis data, cases of congenital syphilis rose by an alarming 32% and resulted in 220 stillbirths and infant deaths.
Chlamydia rates increased nearly 4%, but – unlike gonorrhea and syphilis – still did not return to pre-pandemic levels.
This rise in cases is concerning since screening was disrupted during the second year of the pandemic, and the infection is often asymptomatic.
While STIs are common in all U.S. regions and across all groups, some communities are hit harder. The 2021 data show STIs continue to affect gay and bisexual men and younger people disproportionately (CDC, 2023). Additionally, a disproportionate number of cases were diagnosed among Black/African American and American Indian/Alaska Native people, groups more likely to face social conditions that make it difficu
lt to stay healthy (CDC, 2023).
As a result, the CDC (2023) has called for increased involvement of multisectoral programs and groups and the creation of innovative prevention approaches and promising new tools. The CDC underscores the importance of the following community initiatives:
Rebuilding, sustaining, and expanding local public health services, especially efforts to offer STI testing and treatment programs that respond to the needs of those most affected.
Making STI testing and treatment more accessible, including developing and approving point-of-care rapid tests and self-tests, and expanding ownership for STI testing and treatment to more organizations and settings.
Continuing to advance scientific research and explore new interventions, like vaccines or post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) strategies to prevent bacterial STIs.
Adapted from CDC U.S. STI Epidemic, 2023