HIV is in the news thanks to Charlie Sheen - but it's not the biggest health threat between the sheets.
Centuries old sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea and syphilis are spreading at an alarming rate - and more Americans caught chlamydia last year than at any point in history, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control.
The more than 1.4 million cases of chlamydia revealed in a federal report Tuesday are the highest number of any sexually transmitted disease that the agency has ever seen.
And gonorrhea and syphilis also increased for the first time since 2006, with just under 20,000 cases of syphilis - the highest rate since 1994 - and more than 350,000 cases of gonorrhea.
Young people, particularly women and gay and bisexual men, were more likely to be diagnosed. The CDC estimates that half of the 20 million new STDs that occur each year are among people ages of 15 and 24.
Worse, the CDC warns that more than half of the gay and bisexual men diagnosed with syphilis last year were also HIV positive, since syphilis can cause genital sores that make it easier to transmit HIV.
"America's worsening STD epidemic is a clear call for better diagnosis, treatment, and prevention," said Jonathan Mermin, M.D., director of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and Tuberculosis Prevention, in a statement. "STDs affect people in all walks of life, particularly young women and men, but these data suggest an increasing burden among gay and bisexual men."
And that's just the tip of the iceberg, since so many instances go unreported.
"Many cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis continue to go undiagnosed and unreported, and data on several additional STDs - such as human papillomavirus, herpes simplex virus, and trichomoniasis - are not routinely reported to CDC," warns the fact sheet. "As a result, the annual surveillance report captures only a fraction of the true burden of STDs in America."
And these venereal diseases can have dire consequences.
"Because chlamydia and gonorrhea often have no symptoms, many infections go undiagnosed and this can lead to lifelong repercussions for a woman's reproductive health, including pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility," warned Gail Bolan, M.D., director of CDC's Division of STD Prevention.
The report did not offer an explanation for the spike in STD cases.
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