Sexually transmitted infections are on the rise across the nation, condom use is down and one STI in particular is becoming resistant to the antibiotics typically used to treat it.
Gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia diagnoses have continued to increase over the past four years, while people continue to neglect condom use during sex, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gonorrhea is also becoming resistant to antibiotic treatments.
One antibiotic, ceftriaxone, remains successful in its treatment of gonorrhea, but the CDC said in a statement that it is concerned the disease will soon develop resistance to ceftriaxone, which would deem gonorrhea untreatable unless other options become available.
Gonorrhea is a global problem, said Dr. Gladys Gibbs, director of Ohio State student life student health services. It is the second-most prevalent STI in the United States — with chlamydia being the first — and the second-most commonly reported communicable disease, with more cases reported in men than in women.
“I encourage all young men and women to have protected sex with any new partner,” Gibbs said. “Conversation with their partner about past sexual history, history of STIs, exclusivity versus polyamorous relationship, etc., is a must.”
There is a lack of STI screening and condom use, Gibbs said, along with a misunderstanding that other birth control methods, such as the pill or an IUD, prevent STIs.
“It is important to understand that effective birth control does not provide protection from STIs,” Gibbs said.
People are more at risk for gonorrhea or other STIs when engaging in sexual activity with new or multiple partners without protection, according to the CDC.
“The acquisition of [gonorrhea] implies risky sexual behavior that is, in turn, a risk factor for other infections,” Gibbs said. Undiagnosed or untreated STIs could cause infertility, stillbirth or even HIV.
According to the CDC, STI prevention and federal funding efforts have stagnated. The CDC’s funding for prevention has hovered around $157 million for the past 18 years.
People should get screened for STIs if they are sexually active, under 25 years of age or having sex with new, multiple or same-sex partners, the CDC recommends. They should also get tested regularly every two months, Gibbs said.