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Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Congenital Syphilis Levels Up in 2020

Initial decrease across STDs reported during early part of 2020; decrease in chlamydia continued through 2020 but likely reflects underdiagnosis

By Physician's Briefing Staff | April 14, 2022

Reported cases of gonorrhea, syphilis, and congenital syphilis in 2020 surpassed those of 2019, while chlamydia cases decreased, according to a report published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers from the CDC identified reported cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the United States during 2020 and examined trends in diagnoses. In addition, the impact of COVID-19 on STD trends was explored.

According to the report, initial decreases were seen across STDs, especially during the initial shelter-in-place orders in March and April 2020. However, compared with 2019, at the end of 2020, reported cases of gonorrhea and primary and secondary syphilis increased 10 and 7 percent, respectively. Reported cases of congenital syphilis were up nearly 15 percent in 2020 compared with 2019 and were increased 235 percent compared with 2016. There was a 13 percent decline in reported cases of chlamydia in 2020 compared with 2019; this decline was likely due to decreased screening and underdiagnosis during the pandemic. This also contributed to an overall decrease in the number of reported STDs in 2020, which decreased from 2.5 million in 2019 to 2.4 million in 2020. The decline in reported STD cases seen during the first part of 2020 was likely due to multiple factors, including reduced frequency of in-person health care services and diversion of public health staff from STD work to the COVID-19 response.

"If we are to make lasting progress against STDs in this country, we have to understand the systems that create inequities and work with partners to change them," Leandro Mena, M.D., M.P.H., the director of the CDC Division of STD Prevention, said in a statement. "No one can be left behind."

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