Sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise across the nation, but the problem is particularly acute in Los Angeles County, it was reported this week.
Not only does the county have the most cases, it also has some of the highest rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in California and the nation, the Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday.
Some public health experts have blamed the heavy use of online dating apps, arguing that they lead to more casual sex among people 25 and younger, who are the most likely to be infected and also the least inclined to seek testing, according to the newspaper.
Although the precise cause of the increase is not clear, some entrepreneurs and public health officials are trying to tackle the problem with technology. Dozens of organizations now offer STD tests that can be ordered online and mailed to homes. The customer provides a sample, sends it back to a lab and receives results within a few days. But as these tests become more popular, experts warn that they may not always be accurate.
Rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in the U.S. had been fluctuating for several years, but all surged in 2014. A particularly staggering statistic, the 1.4 million chlamydia cases reported that year, marked the highest number of annual cases of any condition ever reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to The Times. In California, the per-capita incidence of the three diseases is higher and has been climbing since 2010.
STDs continue to affect young people—particularly women–most severely, but increasing rates among men contributed to the overall increases in 2014 across all three diseases.
Both young men and young women are heavily affected by STDs, according to the CDC—but young women face the most serious long-term health consequences. It is estimated that undiagnosed STDs cause more than 20,000 women to become infertile each year.
“The consequences of STDs are especially severe for young people,” said Gail Bolan, M.D., director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention. “Because chlamydia and gonorrhea often have no symptoms, many infections go undiagnosed and this can lead to lifelong repercussions for a woman’s reproductive health, including pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility.”
According to the CDC, in 2014, the overall chlamydia rate among Blacks in the United States was 1,117.9 cases per 100,000 population. The rate among Black women was 5.7 times the rate among White women (1,432.6 and 253.3 per 100,000 females, respectively). The chlamydia rate among Black men was 7.3 times the rate among White men (772.0 and 105.5 cases per 100,000 males, respectively).
Rates of reported cases of chlamydia were highest for Blacks aged 15-19 and 20-24 years in 2014. The chlamydia rate among Black females aged 15-19 years was 6,371.5 cases per 100,000 females, which was 4.9 times the rate among White females in the same age group (1,291.6 per 100,000 females). The rate among Black women aged 20-24 years was 4.1 times the rate among White women in the same age group.
Similar racial disparities in reported chlamydia rates exist among men. Among males ages 15-19 years, the rate among Blacks was nine times the rate among Whites. The chlamydia rate among Black men aged 20-24 years was 5.4 times the rate among White men of the same age group (3,241.2 and 603.5 cases per 100,000 males, respectively).
The rate of gonorrhea among Blacks in 2014 was 405.4 cases per 100,000 population, which was 10.6 times the rate among Whites (38.3 per 100,000).
Primary and Secondary (P&S) Syphilis
During 2010-2014, 44 states submitted syphilis data for each year, and among these states, rates of reported primary and seconary syphilis cases increased 152.6 percent among American Indians/Alaska Natives (3.1 to 7.9 per 100,000 population); 135.2 percent among Asians (1.2 to 2.9 per 100,000); 80.2 percent among Hispanics (4.2 to 7.5 per 100,000 population); 56.7 percent among Whites (2.2 to 3.5 per 100,000); 38.2 percent among Native Hawaiians/Other Pacific Islanders (5.1 to 7.1 per 100,000); and 7.8 percent among Blacks (17.8 to 19.2 per 100,000).
In 2014, 49 states submitted syphilis data by race and ethnicity according to the Office of Management and Budget standards. The following data pertain to those jurisdictions:
In 2014, 38.1 percent of reported P&S syphilis cases with known race/ethnicity occurred among Blacks The P&S syphilis rate among Blacks in 2014 was 18.9 cases per 100,000 population, which was 5.4 times the rate among Whites (3.5 per 100,000). This disparity was higher for Black women (9.2 times the rate among White women) than for Black men (5.3 times the rate among White men).
Considering all race/ethnicity, sex, and age categories, P&S syphilis rates were highest among black men aged 20-24 years and 25-29 years in 2014.
Black men aged 20-24 years had a P&S syphilis rate of 106.3 cases per 100,000 men. This rate was 8.5 times the rate among White men in the same age group (12.5 per 100,000). Black men ages 25-29 years had a P&S syphilis rate of 121.3 cases per 100,000 men, which was 7.9 times the rate among White men in the same age group (15.4 per 100,000).
Race/ethnicity for cases of congenital syphilis is based on the mother’s race/ethnicity. During 2013-2014, rates of reported congenital syphilis cases increased 102.9 percent among Asians/Pacific Islanders, 32.1 percent among Whites, 21.7 percent among Blacks, and 19.8 percent among Hispanics. The congenital syphilis rate did not change among American Indians/Alaska Natives.
City News Service contributed to this story.