In the last 15 years, there has been a 40 percent decline of federal funding to combat STDs for local and state public health programs. Officials said more federal funding is necessary to fight this dramatic rise in STDs to get them under control again.
The National Coalition of STD Directors requested $70 million in funding a year to help with STD prevention and treatment. The agency also asked the Trump administration to develop a federal plan that works with all health agencies. They also asked the Trump administration to announce a public health emergency for sexually transmitted diseases like it did for opioids.
By declaring it a public health emergency, it would give officials the money they need to address the crisis quicker. The money could be used in STD clinics and protecting babies from congenital syphilis, which is what occurs when the mother has syphilis and spreads it to her baby. It would also be used to combat the concerning antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea problem.
According to the CDC, STDs cost the nation around $1.6 billion a year.
Arkansas Health Department Director Nathaniel Smith said more funding would ensure more employees could be hired to help find the partners of people who tested positive for an STD. He said it would also allow them to visit the more susceptible communities to talk to them about STDs and provide testing and treatment.
National Coalition of STD Directors Executive Director David Harvey said local and state officials have been meeting with key federal health officials on a regular basis and talks about the problem have been positive.
Officials on the state and local levels are worried because information before 2013 shows the rates of STDs had started to drop. Today’s information is the complete opposite. The federal government does not keep routine track of information for common STDs like HPV and herpes. (HPV also causes cervical cancer).
The rates for HIV have their own report. And, HIV-positive people are using drugs to slow the spread of the disease. Although more women are using long-term contraceptives, condoms are not being used more often, which is leading to the rise in STDs.
According to CDC information, gonorrhea rose 67 percent in four years’ time (2013 to 2017). Syphilis cases doubled with more cases being diagnosed in gay men. The CDC found the most common STD was chlamydia with 1.7 million people diagnosed with the STD.
CDC Division of STD Prevention’s Epidemiology and Statistics Branch Chief Kyle Bernstein, this shows a troubling sign. However, there are some politicians that have sat up and taken notice.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams was sent a letter from Democrat Sen. Patty Murray who is on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. She urged him to act right away to increase public awareness and focus on preventing efforts, especially in areas where people are most at risk for catching an STD.
36 Democratic representatives and 10 Democratic senators are written their appropriations leaders to ask for more funding to combat the rise of STDs before budget deliberations were held.
While the increase was not added, Harvey and other advocates hope the president’s budget will include the request. That budget request is supposed to be released in February. About $157 million is spent a year by the federal government for the STD fight.
Officials hope to get STD funding on follow-up bills targeting the opioid crisis. The bill President Trump signed in law back in October for the opioid crisis made no mention of STDs. According to experts, the number of people addicted to drugs like prescription painkillers and heroin is one of the reasons for the increase in STD rates. These people may be trading their bodies to score drugs.
Still, many agencies are addressing the STD problem. For example, the FDA has introduced several proposals about drug-resistant bacteria. The CDC is encouraging doctors to test pregnant women for syphilis throughout their pregnancies – not just as the start of it.
Smith knows officials are faced with an array of health issues like the opioid crisis, obesity and nicotine, which is why the STD crisis is not their top priority. However, he said, the numbers are alarming and that needs to be dealt with.
Written by Mark Riegel, MD
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