US health officials have raised the alarm after the Centers for Disease Control released its 2018 STD surveillance report outlining statistics that reveal STD rates are at an all-time high in the country. Since 2014, chlamydia cases have risen by 19%, gonorrhea by 63%, and primary/secondary syphilis cases are up a staggering 71%. South Carolina was declared the 4th highest observer of chlamydia rates in the country and the third-highest for gonorrhea.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can cause severe damage to the reproductive capabilities of females. Sadly, some STDs don't even have any distinct symptoms, making their early detection even more cumbersome for people. Generally, women and men experience abnormal discharge and strange burning sensations when urinating if they have an STD. However, not every individual needs to have similar symptoms.
Untreated STDs are like a ticking timebomb as these can instigate the spread of HIV, cause infertility, pelvic pain, pelvic inflammatory disease, and even cancer. Particularly vulnerable are pregnant women and infants as congenital syphilis can be transferred to the unborn baby, leading to stillbirth or infecting the baby. Primary and secondary syphilis is when the infection is most devastating.
Rising STDs rates have become a grave public health crisis in South Carolina since 2015. Not just pregnant ladies but men who have sex with men are also at high risk of STDs. Congenital syphilis transmission from the infected mothers to the fetus is persisting in almost the entire state.
Getting tested is the only way to identify whether or not you have an STD and prevent the infection from getting transmitted to your partner or unborn baby. Regular STD testing is crucial for sexually active individuals. The CDC recommends annual screening, especially if you have a new partner. Abstinence is, although a suitable way to avoid getting infected with an STD, regular checkups are a more reliable route. According to the STD prevention guidelines released by the CDC, sexually active females above and below the age of 25, those with multiple partners, or a new partner with a positive STD infection screening must mandatorily get screened. Moreover, pregnant women should get tested for STD on their first prenatal visit and then again in the third trimester.
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South Carolina is home to 5,024,448 residents, and as per a report from Innerbody.com based on the CDC STD surveillance report, there were 48,095 infections reported in 2018 in the state.
Although South Carolina doesn't have the highest overall STD rates in the country, it is still within the high-risk category as it reported the fourth-highest STD rates with 957 cases per 100,000 people, which is a startling number. This represents combined cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, HIV, and chlamydia.
Around 5,780 cases of STDs were reported in South Carolina's largest city and state capital, Columbia. The city has a population of 414,570 residents. This means the overall STD rate in Columbia was nearly 1,390 cases per 100,000 people. Out of all STDs, chlamydia was the most widespread in Columbia as data revealed 4,040 cases were reported in 2018.
In 2015, South Carolina was reportedly at number 7 among the fifty US states in chlamydial infections, with around 569 cases per 100,000 residents. In terms of gonorrheal infections, the state had the fourth-highest number of cases with 169.8 per 100,000. Similarly, the reported chlamydia cases among females were 2.4 times higher than males, with 795 and 328 cases per 100,000, respectively.
It is important to note that in 2011, the state had reported 4.7 cases of primary/secondary syphilis per 100,000, and the rate increased to 6.1 cases per 100,000 people. There were sixteen cases of congenital syphilis reported between 2011 and 2015, while the state ranked 18th in the country in terms of primary/secondary syphilis cases.
CDC STD surveillance data for the year 2016-17 indicates that chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, the three main STDs, are continually inclining in South Carolina. It has now become the third-highest state in terms of the rising number of STDs cases in the country, revealed an analytical report by Health Testing Centers.
According to the CDC, the year 2017 set new records in STDs transmission across South Carolina, with chlamydia cases showing a 14.4% increase, making it the third-highest state in chlamydia infections after New Hampshire and Connecticut. Greenville, Charleston, and Myrtle Beach are other cities in South Carolina where the STD epidemic is causing havoc.
The most disturbing fact is that congenital syphilis cases are rising steadily in the state, which indicates that newborn babies are at an increased risk of contracting the infection. Similarly, the number of stillbirths is also rising due to the increase in congenital syphilis cases. There are reportedly 650 cases of syphilis per 100,000 people, which is way above New Hampshire's 330 and Connecticut's 496 cases. In 2017, the state ended up being the fifth most risky state for gonorrheal infections with 254 cases per 100,000, while the national average that year was 172.
The teen birth rate in South Carolina has declined by 70%, which is a significant decrement. The state noticed a peak in teen pregnancy rates during the early 1990s, and since then, there has been a 70% decrease. But, young adults are still at substantial risk for getting an STD.
In 2018, South Carolina ranked the fourth highest in the US for chlamydial infections and the third-highest for gonorrheal infections among all age groups. Adolescents, which includes youth aged between 15 and 24, accounted for a staggering 67% of all chlamydia infections in South Carolina and 53% of all gonorrhea cases reported in the state. This is why the state government and health department must ensure teens and adults have access to comprehensive STD testing and treatment facilities. In 2018, there were 1,306 congenital syphilis cases, which is 185% higher than the rates reported by CDC in 2014.
The 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance survey revealed that 51% of sexually active high schoolers in South Carolina reported not using a condom. This highlights the significance of providing comprehensive sexual education, including guidelines on the appropriate use of contraception and condoms among sexually active teenagers.
According to the South Carolina department of health and environmental control (SCDHEC), African-Americans reported the highest number of chlamydia cases, with 45% in 2017, whites with 18%, and 2% for Hispanics. The 20 to 24 age group was found to be the most at-risk in terms of chlamydia infections in South Carolina. A similar trend was noted in gonorrheal infections as the highest number of cases was reported among African-Americans with 53%, followed by whites with 16%, and Hispanics had 1% cases. The rate of syphilis cases was again the highest among blacks with 62%, whites were the second most affected race with 30%, while Hispanics ranked third with 5% cases in 2017.
The uptick in STD cases in South Carolina is mainly due to the sudden decrease in state funding for sexual health organizations and clinics. The Department of Health and Environmental Control, which is responsible for providing publicly-funded clinics across the state, offers STD screening/treatment facilities. However, the agency is suffering because of the tapered federal funding in the past few years. a DHEC spokesperson stated that this drop in federal funding is concerning. It further intensifies other issues like increasing disease burden, increasing population, increasing cost of living, and increasing disease control staff salaries. Therefore, these resources must receive sufficient funding. If access to these resources is restricted, the state won't provide access to comprehensive testing and treatment, and the risk of rising STDs cases will not be reduced.
DHEC participated in CDC's National STD Awareness Week, and its press release stated that it is a crucial step in the right direction.
"STDs are preventable, and an important step in prevention is getting tested. With the number of certain types of STDs rising annually in South Carolina and across the nation, we can't do enough to educate each other about the importance of STD safety, including prevention and treatment, which is what National STD Awareness Week is all about," said Ali Mansaray, the director of DHEC's STD, HIV, and Viral Hepatitis Division.
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.