Amid rising rates nationally, California officials on Monday said cases of sexually transmitted diseases reached a state record high last year. More than 300,000 cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis were reported in 2017, a 45 percent increase in the last five years, according to state Department of Public Health figures.
Officials also expressed concern about a spike in cases of stillbirth due to congenital syphilis—an infection affecting the unborn children of pregnant women with the disease. There were 30 stillbirths in 2017 due to the infection, the highest number since 1995. Los Angeles County alone saw 47 cases of congenital syphilis, a jump from just eight cases in 2013.
“For California to have a steady increase in congenital syphilis is shameful,” said Jeffrey Klausner, a professor of medicine at UCLA. “We’ve known how to control syphilis since early 1900s.”
By “control” Klausner means condoms and antibiotics. He and others have argued the overall STD spike is the result of decreased public health funding and lack of education. Heidi Bauer, chief of the state health department’s STD Control Branch, said the $20 million budget to fight STDs is not enough for California’s 40 million residents, especially in regions dealing with poverty, substance abuse, mental health issues, and homelessness.
The California health department said it was spearheading an effort to educate the public about the risks of STDs and how to stay protected, screened, and treated.
But no one wants to acknowledge the obvious: If society continues to idolize sexual fulfillment, public health programs, education, and medications will never keep up with all the problems created. —K.C.