by Matthew Heldberg
According to new federal data, the number of sexually transmitted disease cases reached a record high in the United States last year. Of the 20 million new S.T.D. cases reported in 2015, half involved men and women between 15 to 24 year olds. College-aged students, like ourselves, are the most at risk to contract an S.T.D. than any other age group in the country. Is this because we are more aware and educated about how to get checked for them? Or, could it be because of the new generation of dating apps, like Tinder?
Dr. Jonathan Mermin, the director of the agency’s National Center for H.I.V./Aids, Viral Hepatitis, S.T.D. and TB Prevention, suggests that the increased popularity of dating apps could be a reason for the spike in S.T.D. cases amongst people between the ages of 15 to 24. However, while some health departments agree that there could be a connection, it remains unclear exactly how and why the rates continue to increase year to year. Whether there truly is a “Tinder effect” or not, the spike in the number of STDs reported in the U.S. is something that we must all be aware of.
Even if you do not use Tinder, or any other dating apps, the presence of S.T.Ds on college campuses can still affect you. The three most common STD’s that were reported last year were chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. All three of these diseases are curable with antibiotics. However, if they are left untreated, the likelihood of fertility problems and other related issues greatly increase. Of the three diseases, chlamydia poses the greatest threat to men and women between the ages of 15 to 24 years old. The rate of chlamydia cases reported increased by 5.9% overall last year. 1.5 million people reported having chlamydia. And of those reported cases, 1 million of them involved people who were within the high school and college-aged population. That means that two-thirds of the new chlamydia cases in 2015 were contracted by people under the age of 24 years-old. And while statistics prove that women are more likely to contract chlamydia than men, the number of men reporting to have contracted the disease sharply increased in the last year. Needless to say, these numbers are frightening.
The majority of the new gonorrhea and syphilis cases are among gay men. However, the rates for women are increasing as well. Gonorrhea poses a new threat because it has continually become more difficult to treat. Scientists at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention have issued a warning that the bacterium that causes gonorrhea is developing resistance to the antibiotics used to treat it. As mentioned before, if any of these S.T.D.s are left untreated, health problems can occur. However, syphilis poses an even greater threat if left untreated, especially with women who are pregnant. Congenital syphilis, which occurs when the infection is transferred from a pregnant woman to her baby, can result in stillbirth, miscarriage, blindness or stroke. 487 cases of congenital syphilis were reported between 2014 to 2015, an increase by 6% from the past year.
What these statistics show us is that our society is changing. While health department STD clinics across the country have been closing down due to state and local budget cuts, more and more S.T.D. cases emerge every year. We continue to become more interconnected through dating apps and social media forums, however, access to treatment of S.T.D.s is becoming more difficult and more expensive.
Dr. Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, expressed in a recent statement the spike in S.T.D. cases in the U.S. requires attention; “to reverse the STD epidemic, we should all learn to talk more openly about S.T.D.s – with our partners, parents, and providers.” Colleges and universities across the country have increased their efforts in raising awareness about the increased S.T.D. presence on college campuses. Luckily for us at Bryant University, we have Health Services on campus that offers S.T.D.. testing to all students. As college students, we have to become comfortable about talking about sexually transmitted diseases in order to reverse the epidemic. We here at Bryant can start taking the right steps toward the future by getting tested and helping prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.