Sexually Transmitted Diseases Increased to Record High: CDC

Stream: Sexually Transmitted Diseases Increased to Record High: CDC

About 1 out of every 3 Americans, or roughly 34%, have an STD. This is according to the Centers for Disease Control’s new 2016 Sexually Transmitted Diseases Surveillance report.

“More than two million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were reported in the United States in 2016, the highest number ever,” according to the report. The CDC announces this as a “record high.”

Chlamydia is up about 5% over 2015, gonorrhea rates increased about 19%, early syphilis about 18%, and congenital syphilis was up nearly 28%.

The New York Times reports, “At any given time, there are an estimated 110 million sexually transmitted infections in the United States.” There were about 321 million people in the USA in 2015, hence about 1 out of 3 had some sort of STD. This includes people of all ages, which implies the rate among the sexually active will be higher.

Jonathan Mermin is the director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. He said, “Increases in STDs are a clear warning of a growing threat. STDs are a persistent enemy, growing in number, and outpacing our ability to respond.”

Perhaps the most shocking statistics is the increase of newborns with syphilis, rising from 461 in 2014 to 628 new cases in 2016.

Syphilis rates increased by nearly 18 percent overall from 2015 to 2016. The majority of these cases occur among men — especially gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) — however, there was a 36 percent increase in rates of syphilis among women, and a 28 percent increase in syphilis among newborns (congenital syphilis) during this period.


HIV and AIDS (the late stage of HIV) are tracked separately and not listed as STDs in the report, since HIV can be transmitted by other means besides sex. Other sexually associated diseases, such as anal cancer, are also not included in the report.

HIV rates are separately tracked by the CDC, however, and as of this writing only the 2015 numbers are available.

The number of new HIV (any stage) cases has been holding fairly steady, and is even down slightly from 2010. About 32,000 new cases among men, 7,420 new cases among women, and 120 new cases among children (of both sex) were reported in 2015. Some 27,600 of the cases among men, or 86%, were due to men having sex with men (MSM). Among women, 87% of new cases were contracted heterosexually (MSW). Injection drug use for both sexes accounted for nearly all of the other remaining cases.


According to a study of sexual orientation by the CDC, about 1.8% of men report being “gay” and about 0.4% report being “bisexual”, which gives about 2.2% of MSM. Since about 49.1% of the United States population are males, there were in 2015 roughly 3.5 million MSM. This includes men of all ages, and is on the high side as an estimate of actual sexual activity.

The number of new cases of HIV was therefore somewhere in the neighborhood of 1% of MSM.

There were in 2014 (the latest year available) about 722,000 total males living with HIV/AIDS, of which about 77% were associated with MSM. The rate of total HIV/AIDS infection among all MSM is thus about 17%. The actual rate among the sexually active will likely be higher since this calculation includes males of all ages.

Anal cancer


Click here to read the rest.

Clarification. Thanks to Willis Eschenbach for pointing out some questions. That “110 million” figure represents “sexually transmitted infections” and not per se STDs listed in the CDC report. That means that 1 in 3 figure is screwy. The CDC report linked only tracks those three STDs listed in the article, and not, as said, HIV nor cancers or warts, and so on. It also doesn’t directly track the largest STI, which is the human papillomavirus HPV. As the CDC says “HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active people get it at some point in their lives”.

Now there is also the problem of double-counting. Those with one STD are apt to have more than one STD, particularly MSM (read this story by one man to illustrate the many different types of infections possible). All this makes figuring the actual rate of “all Americans” with a sexually transmitted disease or infection difficult.


  1. Ken

    RE: “About 1 out of every 3 Americans, or roughly 34%, have an STD. This is according to the Centers for Disease Control’s new 2016 … report.”

    and (from the linked Stream piece) RE: “The rates of STDs among MSM are much higher than for MSW. … The rate of gonorrhea infection for MSM is well over 3,000 times higher than the rate of men who have sex with women. Higher rates are found for chlamydia, too.”

    If a measure’s distribution in a population is so lopsided/concentrated that a precisely definable population subgroup accounts for the vast majority of a measure (MSM’s have STDs some 3000x’s more than MSWs) making the broader generalization (1 of 3 has it) really isn’t a reasonable representation of that STD problem, is it?

    Could that kind of presentation/representation really be a means of trying to mislead the ‘non-subgroup population’ into perceiving their group has a problem it does not … as a means of seducing them into supporting [e.g. paying for] solutions to the special interest subgroup’s self-inflicted STD problem?

    Like the shadowy boundary between light and darkness there is a debatable demarcation between objective reporting, marketing, and deceit — but that there are such boundaries is undeniable. Seems to me CDC is way on the wrong side of this spectrum.

    Or, as the saying goes, ‘Figures don’t lie…but liars figure.’

  2. Kyle

    I’m not sure I understand your qualms here, Ken. Are you protesting the extrapolation?

    It’s conceptually clear that MSM are going to have considerably higher percentages of STDs due to higher numbers of partners compounded by their relegation to types of fornication that are more conducive to the spread of disease. I’m not sure how to solve this problem, but I certainly don’t see this study as a means to “support [i.e. pay for] solutions”. Granted I was only interested enough to post this comment and not read actually read the whole study.

  3. Ye Olde Statistician

    It’s the palmed denominator. A percentage ought to be expressed with respect to the relevant denominator. For example, “Approximately 11.6 percent of men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point during their lifetime” relates the prostate cancer rate to the relevant population; but to report that 5.8% or Americans will be so diagnosed is, while correct to a degree, sloughs over the fact that half of Americans simply don’t get prostate cancer. The rates given above is not quite so bad, since both groups can contract the diseases specified, but it still has the effect of a) alarming those who are not so much at risk and b) lulling those who are at greater risk.

    Some of us may recall panicked statements about how much higher the suicide rate is among soldiers and cops than it is among the general population, which overlooked the fact that soldiers and cops are overwhelmingly young adult males, while the general population includes female, children, and elderly. When the same denominator is used — men within a specified age range — civilian suicide and military/police suicides occur at nearly the same rate.

  4. Andrew Brew

    Or statements about the rate of reported sexual abuse by priests compared with the general population.

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