CDC: STD rates are at an all-time high; South Carolina ranks in the top 5 for 2 of them

News13 Digital First

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Health officials are sounding the alarm after a new report revealed STD rates in the US are at an all-time high.

The Center for Disease Control released its 2018 STD surveillance report earlier this month, outlining statistics experts call ‘alarming.’

Cases of chlamydia have increased by 19 percent since 2014. Gonorrhea is up 63 percent since then. Meanwhile, primary and secondary syphilis is up a startling 71 percent since 2014.

South Carolina ranked fourth-highest nationwide for chlamydia rates and third overall for gonorrhea.

“We’re seeing an epidemic that’s impacting the nation,” Dr. Fredanna McGough said. She’s the head of Coastal Carolina’s Department of Health Sciences. “They are quite large increases.”

She pointed out one particular trend that she found especially alarming.

“There’s also an increase in congenital syphilis, meaning that newborns are getting it and there’s been a rise in the number of deaths as a result of the increase,” McGough said.

In 2018, there were 1,306 cases of congenital syphilis, according to the CDC’s report. That’s a 185 percent increase since 2014.

The report cites several reasons for the uptick in cases. One of those reasons is a decrease in funding for sexual health clinics and organizations.

News13 obtained funding information from the Department of Health and Environmental Control, which provides publicly-funded clinics in South Carolina that offer STD testing and treatment. While the agency has been getting more cash from the state, federal funding has tapered in the last few years.

In an email, a spokesperson for DHEC said the decrease in federal funding is even more concerning when combined with ‘the increase in population, the increasing disease burden and the increase in (the) cost of living and salaries for disease control staff over those years.’

Dr. McGough agrees having these resources be properly funded is essential.

“If we don’t have access to these resources, we’re not going to be able to have access to you know distribute them and be able to reduce their risk of getting STDs,” Dr. McGough said.

News13 went to Tidelands Health Market Common to talk to a doctor for more answers.

Dr. Roxanne Latimer says many never seek treatment because they never get any symptoms.

“If people are having symptoms, they’re coming and they’re coming quickly to get tested,” she said. “But if they’re not having symptoms, they think everything is okay. And that’s not the case.”

Regular testing, Dr. Latimer said, is critical for those who are sexually active.

“Abstinence is the only way to know you won’t get an STD,” she said. “Probably the best route is you know at your regular checkups, routinely test. And then certainly seek out an appointment to get a test if you have a new partner.”

Health experts also recommend anyone who is sexually active always practice having protected sex.

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