STD Cases Hit 30-Year High in California, With Some Diseases Increasing Over 200% in Last Decade

A motorhome converted into a mobile HIV screening lab by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is parked on a busy street on its first day of operations on April 28, 2004 in Los Angeles. (Credit: David McNew/Getty Images)

A motorhome converted into a mobile HIV screening lab by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is parked on a busy street on its first day of operations on April 28, 2004 in Los Angeles. (Credit: David McNew/Getty Images)

Sexually transmitted diseases reached epidemic levels in California last year, with three STDs hitting their highest levels in the state in 30 years, according to a report released Tuesday.

For 2018, the California Department of Public Health saw an increased number of reported syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia cases.

The  number of cases also rose significantly from a decade ago.

Syphilis had the most dramatic spike over the 10-year period in terms of percentage; the 25,344 diagnoses represents a sharp rise of 265% from 2008, according to the report.

Chlamydia had the most cases last year with 232,181, up 56% over the past decade. And there were 79,397 cases of gonorrhea, 211% more than 10 years ago.

But what was particularly concerning for health officials was the number of congenital syphilis diagnoses which rose 14% from the previous year and increased for a sixth consecutive year. Since 2012, the number of infants diagnosed with the potentially lethal disease skyrocketed 900%.

There were 19 stillbirths or 3 neonatal deaths associated with congenital syphilis last year, according to the report. Thirty-one infants also had other symptoms or complications.

STD rates are rising all over California, in both men and women, the report found. But there are some disparities, with the highest number of cases reported among people between the ages of 15-24, African-Americans, and those who are gay, bisexual, or men who have sex with other men, according to the department.

“Underlying drivers of the increases of STDs relate to a complex web of social factors,” the report read. “Some people diagnosed with STD have experienced substance use, incarceration, the exchange of sex for money/housing/other resources, poverty, homelessness and disparities in access to care.”

STDs can lead to a number of serious health problems if left untreated, including infertility, ectopic pregnancy, pelvic inflammatory disease and vision loss.

“STDs are preventable by practicing safe-sex, and many can be cured with antibiotics,”Acting State Public Health Officer Dr. Charity Dean said in a news release. “Regular testing and treatment are essential prevention strategies, even for people who have no symptoms. Most people infected with an STD do not know it.”

Read the full report here

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