May 15, 2018

Sexually transmitted diseases are spiking in California

The bacterium responsible for gonorrhea visible in a urine sample. Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

There were over 300,000 cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and early-stage syphilis detected in California during 2017 — a 45% jump from 2012 and the highest levels since 1990, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

What's happening: Lower rates of condom usage and fewer STD clinics are driving the increase. But a new factor is social media, James Watt, of California Health Department, tells the Chronicle.

“It makes it easier for people to meet people they don’t already know to have sex ... The internet allows for a broadening of sexual networks, and the broader that gets the more opportunity you have for sexually transmitted diseases to spread.”
— James Watt tells the Chronicle

The details, per the Chronicle:

  • The concern: "We’ve been seeing increases for all three diseases for the last five or six years. It’s concerning because that slope, that uptick, doesn’t seem to be coming down. In fact, it seems to be getting steeper," says Watt, who is chief of the department's division of communicable disease control.
  • Racial breakdown: African Americans were five times more likely than whites to contract chlamydia and gonorrhea and twice as likely to contract syphilis.
  • Important differences: Rates of chlamydia were 60% higher among women compared to men, and 54% of the overall STD cases were for people under 25. Watt attributes the higher numbers among women to a national push for more women to get STD testing.

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