STI Epidemic on the Rise in the U.S: CDC Reports Record High Cases in 2021 and Proposed Solutions

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have been on the rise in the United States in recent years, with the number of cases reaching a record high in 2021, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).[0] The report found that cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis all rose between 2020 and 2021, totaling more than 2.5 million reported cases.[1] Gonorrhea rates increased by 4.6%, while syphilis rates rose by nearly 32%, and cases of congenital syphilis rose by 32% during the one-year period, resulting in 220 stillbirths and infant deaths.[2]

The CDC notes that STIs continue to disproportionately affect gay and bisexual men, younger people, and Black Americans and American Indian/Alaska Natives.[2] Experts attribute the rise in STI cases to decreasing condom use, inadequate sex education, reduced testing during the COVID-19 pandemic, and opioid use, which is known to go hand-in-hand with STIs.

There are many contributing factors behind the trend, such as limited access to care, reduced condom use, stigma, and heavier opioid use. Decreased funding for public health and an eroding infrastructure in public health have also limited access to testing-driven services.[3]

The CDC is drafting recommendations to use doxycycline in the same way that the morning-after pill is taken after unprotected sex. The medication would be taken like a morning-after pill and would reduce bacterial STIs, specifically gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis, by two-thirds every three months.[4] This would be a significant step in preventing STIs, especially congenital syphilis, which is 100% preventable.

In conclusion, STIs are an enormous, low-priority public health problem in the United States that have been on the rise for years.[0] While promising new STI interventions are on the horizon, they alone will not solve this epidemic.[1] It is crucial to rebuild, sustain, and expand local public health services, make STI testing and treatment more accessible, and advance research to prevent STIs through vaccines or post-exposure prophylaxis.[5] The most important thing to remember is that congenital syphilis is 100% preventable, and it is the result of our failure to prevent syphilis among women of reproductive age and their partners.[6]

0. “US after-sex ‘morning after' pill to fight STIs” The Telegraph, 12 Apr. 2023,

1. “Sexually transmitted infections hit record high in 2021, CDC finds” The Hill, 11 Apr. 2023,

2. “Sexually transmitted infection rates rose in 2021, new CDC data shows” CBS News, 11 Apr. 2023,

3. “A New CDC Report Shows STIs Are on the Rise — Here Are the Complicated Reasons Why” SheKnows, 11 Apr. 2023,

4. “Cheap ‘morning-after' pill could curb STD surge, CDC says” New York Post , 13 Apr. 2023,

5. “STIs jumped 7% in 2021, CDC report finds” WJXT News4JAX , 13 Apr. 2023,

6. “More than 2.5 million cases of sexually transmitted diseases reported in 2021, up 7% in one year, CDC says” KTRK-TV, 11 Apr. 2023,

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