Sex Diseases Cost $16 Billion a Year to Treat, CDC Says

Bloomberg     (02.14.13):: Elizabeth Lopatto

CDC reported that it costs the United States $16 billion annually to treat eight STDs—HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, herpes, and human papillomavirus (HPV). CDC’s most recent comprehensive data (2008) estimates there are 19.7 million newly diagnosed sexually transmitted infections each year, and that half of these infections occur among young people ages 15 to 24. The most common diagnosis is HPV, which has been linked to throat, cervical, and penile cancers. The report estimates 110 million total sexually transmitted infections among US men and women of all ages.

CDC Epidemiologist Catherine Satterwhite, an author of one of the reports, stated that young people—especially young women—have always been disproportionately affected by STDs because many lack good insurance or easy healthcare access. Satterwhite noted that all STDs are preventable, most are curable, and all have existing treatments. Techniques for preventing STDs include abstinence, condom use, and mutual monogamy for couples. CDC recommends boys and girls have vaccination with Merck’s Gardasil to prevent HPV. In spite of increased incidence of HPV-related cancers, use of HPV vaccine remains low.

HIV is the most expensive STD because it requires life-long treatment. Curable STDs cost $742 million annually. The most common curable STD is chlamydia. To lower prevalence, Satterwhite recommended increased testing, especially for young women, and urged all sexually active people to be tested at least once for HIV.

The full report, “Sexually Transmitted Infections Among US Women and Men: Prevalence and Incidence Estimates, 2008,” was published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases (2013; doi: 10.1097/OLQ.0b013e318286bb53).

The full report, “The Estimated Direct Medical Cost of Selected Sexually Transmitted Infections in the United States, 2008,” was published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases (2013; doi: 10.1097/OLQ.0b013e318285c6d2).