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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Columbia: Professor Reports on Escalating Public Health Crisis: Soaring Sexually Transmitted Disease Rates

The U.S. is facing all-time high rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), with more than 2.4 million reported cases of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia in 2018. While rates are soaring for all groups, and in all regions, most troubling is a 40 percent increase of syphilis among newborns, reports Dr. Samantha Garbers, Columbia University  Mailman School of Public Health associate professor of population and family health, in The Hill.

The alarming numbers are the result of attacks for years on public health services, programs, and policies that support prevention and treatment of STDs. And rates will continue to climb dramatically as a result of the renewed assault on the Title X program, the only federal grant program dedicated to funding comprehensive family planning and related sexual health services.

From 2003 to 2018, federal funding to support prevention efforts has decreased, and STD clinics across the U.S. are closing or reducing their services due to budget restraints.

In July, the Trump administration changed Title X rules to prohibit grants to institutions that provide abortion referrals or services, a “gag” restriction that will directly impact millions who receive family planning and sexual health care at Title X-funded facilities.

While lawsuits are challenging Title X gag rules, a 9th Circuit Court ruling has allowed the restrictions to be implemented anyway.

As prevention and treatment services diminish under the Title X restrictions, the U.S. can expect higher rates of STDs and deteriorating sexual health, particularly among sub-populations at greatest risk, including those ages 18-24.

Although STDs are preventable and treatable, inadequate funding and hostile regulation leaves us on track to see rates further skyrocket in the coming years.

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