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Expand chart
Data: Centers for Disease Control; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

Top public health officials today warned that sexually transmitted diseases continue to rise sharply — hitting a new U.S. record of nearly 2.3 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis diagnosed in 2017, per preliminary Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. The increase is attributed in part to a lack of federal funding for state public health programs, an increase in drug abuse, and socioeconomic problems.

Threat level: The CDC also says there are worrying indications that the current dual therapy antibiotic regime for gonorrhea could become ineffective if resistance, which has been rising in lab testing and reported in other countries, continues.

"There are challenges on many fronts ... [including] skyrocketing STDs and theoretical antibiotic resistance."
— Gail Bolan, director, CDC Division of STD Prevention

By the numbers, per CDC's preliminary 2017 data compared with 2013:

  • Gonorrhea rose by 67% overall (to 555,608 cases from 333,004), doubling among men and showing a "concerning" increase in women for the third year in a row.
  • Primary and secondary syphilis rose 76% (to 30,644 from 17,374), almost 70% of which are cases among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.
  • Chlamydia rose by 21.9% (to 1.7 million from 1,401,906 million) and remains the most common condition. 45% were diagnosed in 15- to 24-year-olds.

Why it matters: These STDs are curable with antibiotics (for now), yet untreated cases are causing severe health problems like infertility, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth in infants and higher risk of HIV infection.

Funding request: Michael Fraser, executive director of the Association of State and Territorial Health officials, says that one of the primary problems is lack of federal funding for state programs.

"This is primarily due to eroding public health infrastructure," Fraser said at a press briefing.

The National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD), a partnership of public health professionals dedicated to the prevention of STDs, agrees. The group cited a 40% decrease since 2003 in the purchasing power of federal STD funding, and calls for an additional $70 million yearly to be added to the budget.

“It’s not a coincidence STDs are skyrocketing — state and local STD programs are working with effectively half the budget they had in the early 2000s... If our representatives are serious about protecting American lives, they will provide adequate funding to address this crisis. Right now, our STD prevention engine is running on fumes.”
— David Harvey, executive director, NCSD, in a statement

Editor's note: This piece has been updated with further information from the press briefing.

Go deeper

Scoop: FDA chief called to West Wing

Stephen Hahn. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has summoned FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn to the West Wing for a 9:30am meeting Tuesday to explain why he hasn't moved faster to approve the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, two senior administration officials told Axios.

Why it matters: The meeting is shaping up to be tense, with Hahn using what the White House will likely view as kamikaze language in a preemptive statement to Axios: "Let me be clear — our career scientists have to make the decision and they will take the time that’s needed to make the right call on this important decision."

Scoop: Schumer's regrets

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images   

Chuck Schumer told party donors during recent calls that the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the fact that Cal Cunningham "couldn't keep his zipper up" crushed Democrats' chances of regaining the Senate, sources with direct knowledge of the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Democrats are hoping for a 50-50 split by winning two upcoming special elections in Georgia. But their best chance for an outright Senate majority ended when Cunningham lost in North Carolina and Sen. Susan Collins won in Maine.

Trump's coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas resigns

Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty

Scott Atlas, a controversial member of the White House coronavirus task force, handed in his resignation on Monday, according to three administration officials who discussed Atlas' resignation with Axios.

Why it matters: President Trump brought in Atlas as a counterpoint to NIAID director Anthony Fauci, whose warnings about the pandemic were dismissed by the Trump administration. With Trump now fixated on election fraud conspiracy theories, Atlas' detail comes to a natural end.