2021 The Center for Disease Control (CDC) analyses1,2 provide the clearest picture to date of how common and costly sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are in the United States. CDC’s latest estimates indicate that 20% of the U.S. population – approximately one in five people – had an STI on any given day in 2018, and STIs acquired that year cost the American healthcare system nearly $16 billion in direct medical costs alone.
CDC’s analyses included eight common STIs, four of which are easily treated and cured if diagnosed early: chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and trichomoniasis. Also included in the analyses are four sexually transmitted viruses: human papillomavirus (HPV), herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and hepatitis B virus (HBV). Many of these infections go undetected because they often have no symptoms and can have serious health consequences.
Fighting STIs: prevention, diagnosis, and prompt treatment
Because STIs are preventable, significant reductions in new infections are not only possible, they are urgently needed. Prevention can minimize the negative, long-term consequences of STIs and reduce healthcare costs. To do this, prevention efforts should:
- Focus on hard-hit populations. Young people and women face some of the biggest impacts and most significant consequences of STIs.
- Consider the social, cultural & economic conditions that make it more difficult for some sexually active people to stay healthy (e.g., poverty, unstable housing, drug use, lack of medical insurance or medical home, high burden of STIs in some communities).
For all individuals who are sexually active – particularly young people and women – STI screening and prompt treatment (if infected) are critical to protect a person’s health and prevent transmission to others. If you are sexually active, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about STI testing and which tests may be right for you.
While medical costs alone are significant, the overall cost of STIs is higher when factoring in costs associated with lost productivity, other non-medical costs and STI prevention.
1. Kreisel, KM, et al., Sexually transmitted infections among US women and men: Prevalence and incidence estimates, 2018. Sex Transm Dis 2021; in press.
2. Chesson, HW, et al., The estimated direct lifetime medical costs of sexually transmitted infections acquired in the United States in 2018. Sex Transm Dis 2021; in press.