The nation's largest AIDS organization, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, blamed the Centers for Disease Control on the “skyrocketing” STD rates. Specifically they criticized the CDC for “the widespread abandonment of the condom culture for STD and HIV prevention.”
On Tuesday the CDC released its “Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance 2016” report.
Some of the alarming highlights include: syphilis rates increased by 17.6 percent over 2015, including a 35 percent increase in women. Babies born with syphilis increased by 27.5 percent. Chlamydia increased by 4.7 percent while gonorrhea increased 18.5 percent.
The syphilis rates are now at levels not seen since 1992, and they disproportionately impact Black and Latino gay men.
“This appears to be an ongoing and growing public health disaster aided and abetted by the CDC. It comes as no surprise that STDs are skyrocketing around the country, particularly among young people and men who have sex with men, given the CDC’s shift away from promoting condom usage as well as cuts in its STD prevention funding,” Whitney Engeran-Cordova, Senior Director of AHF’s Public Health Division, said in a prepared statement.
AHF is urging the CDC to “again prioritize condom use, place STDs at top of national public health agenda.”
But according to the CDC’s own report they’re fully aware of the potential public health crisis.
“Yet not that long ago, gonorrhea rates were at historic lows, syphilis was close to elimination, and we were able to point to advances in STD prevention, such as better chlamydia diagnostic tests and more screening, contributing to increases in detection and treatment of chlamydial infections. That progress has since unraveled,” the report reads. “The number of reported syphilis cases is climbing after being largely on the decline since 1941, and gonorrhea rates are now increasing. This is especially concerning given that we are slowly running out of treatment options to cure Neisseria gonorrhoeae.”
AHF also attacked the CDC for changing its wording from “unprotected sex” to “condomless sex.”
“Regarding decreased condom usage in the U.S.—Advocates from AHF were alarmed that the CDC...changed its longstanding prevention wording regarding condom usage from using the phrase ‘unprotected sex’ to describe sex without a condom or some form of barrier protection, to now utilizing the phrase, ‘condomless sex’ in official CDC documents and vernacular—a move that may suggest or imply to some that condomless sex is somehow protected against STD transmission,” the AHF press release reads.
The change in language was announced at the beginning of 2014. A CDC spokesperson told the Bay Area Reporter at the time, “As discussions about HIV prevention strategies evolve, the terminology needs to evolve as well – an issue the CDC has been aware of and assessing for some time. In recent conversations with HIV Prevention Justice Alliance, we shared with them our ongoing efforts to align our messages with this changing HIV prevention landscape."
Most HIV advocates and organizations though welcomed the change. More than 75 organizations signed onto an open letter to the CDC pushing them to update their language.