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STD Facts and Figures:
Which are Most Common and Other Essential Statistics


Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are rarely talked about openly outside of health clinics and high school health classrooms, but they are all around us.


Half of the 19 million new STDs contracted every year are among young people aged 15-24.

Every year, 19 million people are infected with a sexually transmitted disease. Among them, half are young adults between the ages of 15 and 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

However, many cases of STDs go undiagnosed, so it's possible that the numbers are much higher.

Meanwhile, it's estimated that STDs like Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis cost the United States nearly $15 billion every year in direct medical costs, the CDC states.

Just How Common Are These Common STDs?

1. Chlamydia

This is the most commonly reported infectious disease in the United States, according to the CDC.

How many cases? There were 1,030,911 chlamydia diagnoses in 2006, up from 976,445 in 2005. However, most cases go undiagnosed, and it's thought that there are nearly 3 million new cases of Chlamydia in the United States each year.

Overall, the national rate of reported Chlamydia was 348 cases per 100,000 population in 2006, up 5.6 percent from 2005. It's most common in young women, particularly African-Americans.

Health Consequences: If left untreated, Chlamydia is dangerous for women, causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), ectopic pregnancy, and infertility. Among men complications are not common, but can include pain, fever and, rarely, sterility. Though Chlamydia is easily treated with antibiotics, it often carries no symptoms.

2. Gonorrhea

This is the second most commonly reported infectious disease in the United States.

How many cases? According to the CDC, 358,366 new cases were reported in 2006.

The gonorrhea rate in 2006 was 121 cases per 100,000 population, up 5.5 percent since 2005. However, it's estimated that there are actually twice as many infections as are reported.

Gonorrhea is most common in the South, although cases are also increasing in the West.

Health consequences: Among women, untreated gonorrhea can cause of PID, which can lead to chronic pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancy, and infertility. In men, untreated gonorrhea can cause epididymitis, a painful infection in the tissue surrounding the testicles that can result in infertility. Further, according to the CDC, studies suggest gonorrhea makes an individual three to five times more likely to acquire HIV if exposed.

3. Syphilis

How many cases? Syphilis cases have been on the rise in the United States, increasing nearly 14 percent between 2005 and 2006. During this time the national rate went up from 2.9 to 3.3 cases per 100,000 population, and the number of cases increased from 8,724 to 9,756.

Men are about six times as likely to acquire syphilis than women, an upward trend that is thought to be related to men having sex with men. Fro 2002 to 2006, syphilis rates among men rose 54 percent.

Health consequences: Syphilis is easily treated in its early stages, but left untreated it can lead to brain, cardiovascular and organ damage, along with death. Syphilis also increases the likelihood of being infected with HIV, if exposed.

4. Genital Herpes

In the last decade, the rate of genital herpes has decreased.

How many cases? The CDC estimates that at least 45 million people over the age of 12 -- that's one in five people -- have had genital herpes. Many people are not aware they have the infection.

Health Consequences: Aside from recurring, painful genital sores, which can be especially severe in people with compromised immune systems, herpes tends to cause psychological distress because there is no cure. Herpes can also make you more susceptible to HIV infection, and make those infected with HIV more infectious.

5. Genital Warts

Genital warts, which are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), is one of the most common STDs in the world. A controversial new vaccine, Gardasil, has recently been introduced to fight HPV.

How many cases? Up to 24 million Americans are infected with HPV, according to the National Prevention Information Network (NPIN). In fact, according to NPIN, at least 50 percent of sexually active men and women acquire genital HPV infection at some point in their lives. Rates of HPV appear to be increasing.

Health consequences: Most commonly, HPV causes no symptoms. It can also result in genital warts and, less often, cervical and other genital cancers. Though there is no "cure" for HPV infection, most infections go away on their own.

6. Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis, caused by a single-celled protozoan parasite, is the most common, curable STD in young sexually active women.

How many cases? Over 7 million new cases occur each year, according to NPIN.

Health consequences: Most men do not have symptoms. Women may experience a frothy, yellow-green vaginal discharge with a strong odor, along with irritation and itching of the genital area.

7. Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B can be caused by sexual contact, sharing drugs or needles, needlesticks on the job or from a mother to her baby during birth.

How many cases? There are about 200,000 new cases of hepatitis B in the United States each year. Of these, about half are transmitted through sexual intercourse, according to NPIN.

Health consequences: The hepatitis B virus attacks your liver, causing cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure and death.


Other than complete abstinence, you can best minimize your risk of STDs by being in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner.

Simple Tips to Prevent STDs

The most effective method of preventing STDs, of course, is to abstain from sexual intercourse (i.e., oral, vaginal, or anal sex). Next best is to be in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner.

If you are sexually active without a mutually monogamous, uninfected partner, NPIN recommends:

  • Asking a new sex partner if he or she has an STD, has been exposed to one, or has any unexplained physical symptoms.

  • Not having unprotected sex if your partner has signs or symptoms of STDs, such as sores, rashes, or discharge from the genital area.

  • Being aware that if your partner has had sexual relations with someone else recently, he or she may have an STD, even if there are no symptoms.

  • Using a new condom for each act of intercourse.

  • Getting regular checkups for STDs (even if you show no symptoms), and being familiar with the common symptoms.

Most STDs can be easily treated, NPIN points out, and the earlier treatment is given, the less chance the STD will cause serious damage.

Recommended Reading

Daryl Hannah, Sex Slaves & the New Global Sex Trade

How to Avoid Rape: An Article to Read & Pass On to Every Woman You Know


CDC: Trends in Reportable Sexually Transmitted Diseases in the United States, 2006

CDC Fact Sheet: Genital Herpes

National Prevention Information Network

CDC NPIN Prevention Today

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