The number of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) has dramatically increased in the United States in the past five years. Pennsylvania’s rate has exceeded the national averages in the past two years. In fact, for the fifth year in a row, common reportable STDs, including gonorrhea, chlamydia, and primary/secondary syphilis, have reported a sharp spike, according to a recent analysis from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention’s STDs surveillance report 2019. Reportedly, the number of STDs in Pennsylvania (PA) climbed at a rate of 4.9% in 2019 compared to 2018 numbers.
The Health Secretary of Pennsylvania, Alison Beam, recently revealed that the only way to decrease the risk of contracting an STD is to get tested regularly.
“Sexually transmitted diseases are serious diseases that impact many Pennsylvanians each year. It is essential that all residents are aware of the risks and dangers associated with STDs,” Beam noted.
It is important to note that most STDs can be easily diagnosed and treated if tested at the right time. If diagnosed late, the STD can cause several additional health issues that could be life-threatening.
“Which is why we encourage all residents to talk to their doctor about getting tested so we can further prevent diseases and keep our residents healthy,” Secretary Beam said.
In PA, cases of congenital syphilis have increased lately, which is a concerning issue. A staggering 185% increase was noted on a national level between 2014 and 2018, whereas, in PA, seven cases of congenital syphilis were reported in 2018 and five cases in 2019. The number of cases in PA is the highest in congenital syphilis in the past 25 years. That’s why pregnant women must get tested at their first and third trimester prenatal visits.
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Throughout PA’s southwestern region, the STDs scenario has been far more dramatic than elsewhere. In 2017, around 11% increase in STDs was noted in Allegheny and six contagious counties. Furthermore, between 2017 and 2018, Westmoreland County recorded the lowest increase in STDs at 2.9%, and Washington County had the highest percentage of spike with over 35%.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health revealed in its annual STDs surveillance report that chlamydia was the most reported STD in the state, and gonorrhea was the second most common STD. Overall, the state reported 59,340 chlamydia cases, 15,887 Gonorrhea cases, and 797 primary/secondary syphilis cases. Armstrong County saw a 55% decline in gonorrhea and an 11% decline in chlamydia cases. On the other hand, Fayette reported a whopping 46% increment in gonorrhea and a 5% rise in chlamydia cases.
In PA, early syphilis is at its highest rate in more than two decades. Between 2016 and 2019, early syphilis cases in women of child-bearing age (15-44 years) rose by 114%. In 2015 approximately 78 cases were reported in PA, and in 2019, the number of cases rose to 167.
PA residents below thirty years of age accounted for around 44% of all reported syphilis cases in 2019, 68% of all gonorrhea cases, and 85% of all chlamydia diagnoses.
The state’s STD surveillance data revealed that in 2018, the state’s chlamydia rates among women were comparatively higher than the national average, reporting over 580 cases/100,000 women in PA compared to over 692 cases/100,000 women in the USA. The same report further noted that sexually transmitted infections are the leading risk factors for adverse perinatal outcomes like miscarriage, stillbirth, ectopic pregnancy, congenital disabilities, preterm delivery, newborn illnesses, and death. Conversely, the rate of gonorrhea among Pennsylvanian females was lower than the national average, with 92.6 cases and 145.8 cases per 100,000 women, respectively.
In 2014, the chlamydia-related morbidity rate was reportedly higher among African Americans with 1,178 cases/100,000 people. This rate was around 11 times higher than white Pennsylvanians, who reported 105.2 cases/100,000 people.
On the other hand, the gonorrhea rate among African American males aged 15-44 was 21 times higher with 960.6 cases/100,000 people compared to white males from the same age group, who reported 45.4 cases/100,000 people. Gonorrhea rate among African American females in PA aged 15-44 was 15 times higher with 883.8 cases/100,000 people than white females from the same age group as they accounted for 58.9 cases/100,000 people.
The syphilis rate was 11 times higher among African American males with 37.8 cases/100,000 people than whites with 3.2 cases/100,000 people. Hispanics in PA reported 425.1 cases of chlamydia in 2014 against 105.2 cases/100,000 cases in whites. This indicates chlamydia rates among Hispanics were more than four times higher than whites. Similarly, the gonorrhea rate among Hispanic males aged 15-44 was four times higher than white males, and Hispanic females had over three times higher rates than white females aged 15-44. A similar situation was reported in syphilis as Hispanic males reported 9.8 cases/100,000 people, an average three times higher than the rate reported among white males, 3.2 cases/100,000 people.
Pennsylvania Department of Health STD program is one of the most significant state initiatives. The program’s mission is to prevent/intervene in the transmission of STDs. The program has several core functions, including managing STD service delivery, training and education, surveillance, and interactive sessions with professional health care providers and community organizations. The STD program employs a professional and client-centric approach to people seeking STD diagnosis or treatment. Part of its core functions is partnering with local health care providers and offering confidential and free-of-charge STD testing facilities through dedicated STD clinics across the state.
In PA, CDC funds the state and local health departments to implement science-based prevention and control services to reduce STDs. This funding focuses on devising scalable, high-impact, sustainable, and cost-effective prevention methods. Moreover, PA is part of a more comprehensive network of STD programs responsible for collecting additional information to quickly and aptly determine STD trends and obtain funding to focus on communities through leveraging partnerships and support STD prevention.
In Pennsylvania, those aware of their STD status and are infected with an STD or HIV/AIDS can be charged with aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, or even attempted murder if they engage in sexual activity, spit, or bite on people. However, it is worth noting that, unlike most US states, PA doesn’t have a specific law that criminalizes STDs transmission, and prosecutors instead use the state’s general criminal laws to persecute people who intentionally expose others to the virus.
Most people experience feelings of hesitation when going to get tested for STD, despite knowing they might have contracted one. EasySTD was created to change that.
Visit your nearest lab or clinic, order your home testing kit online, and follow the given instructions from an STD testing provider.
After ordering your STD test, visit the testing center to get tested or take a self sample including urine, cotton swab, or finger prick with the home testing kit and mail it back.
Receive the lab-certified results of your STD test from your test provider via mail or phone within 2 to 3 days. If the test comes positive, consult your doctor immediately.