STDs Cost Our Healthcare System $16 Billion Annually

HPV rates keep growing, despite vaccine, and it's one of the most expensive STDs to treat.

ChlamydiaChlamydia bacteria. Photo via Shutterstock

The flu and the norovirus aren’t the only epidemics sweeping the country—research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says STD numbers are alarmingly high as well.

A study published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases, reports that 20 million new cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis B, HIV, and trichomoniasis were diagnosed in 2008, the latest year with conclusive data. When added to preexisting infections, those cases brought the total number up to 110 million confirmed STDs, a somewhat disturbing figure when you consider that the U.S. population is roughly 400 million people.

The study also found that people between the ages of 15 and 24 account for 20 percent of total infections, and roughly half of all new infections were diagnosed in that age group. Despite high-profile advertising campaigns for its vaccination, HPV was the most commonly diagnosed STD with about 14.1 million new cases reported, and 79.1 million infections in total. Besides the clear health risks associated with such widespread STD contraction—the study’s abstract says that “most sexually active people will be infected with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) at some point in their lives”—a recent article from the New York Daily News reports that it costs the nation’s healthcare system nearly $16 billion a year to treat STDs, and HPV is one of the most expensive to treat.

Though many STDs are treatable, research like this makes us think it’s time people abandoned their cavalier attitude toward sex and disease. Anyone who took high school sex ed class should know about the dangers of unprotected sex. There’s really no excuse for the rate at which people in this country are diagnosed with such preventable diseases.