If you’re sexually active, you know you’re taking a risk every time you have sex. You know you should get tested, too. But how many people really have STDs? It’s not as common as the media and your doctor makes it out to be, right?
In fact, STD cases are on the rise in the U.S., according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And more than half of all people will have a sexually transmitted disease at some point in their life, according to STD statistics from the American Sexual Health Association.
STD Cases Skyrocket in the U.S.
In the 2014 STD Surveillance Report, the CDC reported that there were 1.4 million cases of chlamydia. That’s a rate of 456.1 cases per 100,000 people, and the rate was 2.8% higher than the previous year.
Cases of gonorrhea were up 5.1% that year to a rate of 110.7 cases per 100,000 population. Primary and Secondary (or P&S) syphilis – the most infectious stage – rates were up 15.1% to a rate of 6.3 cases per 100,000 people.
It’s still more common to see STDs in women, but young people in general are at the greatest risk.
Alarming STD Statistics
The CDC estimates that there are 19.7 million new sexually transmitted illnesses in the U.S. In 2008 alone, 110 million men and women were infected with an STD. And 20% of those cases were in men and women between the ages of 15 and 24.
One in two sexually-active people will contract an STD by the time they reach the age of 25.
If the fear of contracting an STD isn’t enough to convince you to get tested, maybe the cost of having an STI will. It is estimated that STIs cost the U.S. $15.6 billion per year.
How Many STDs Are There?
Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis rates are on the rise, but how many STDs are there?
A lot more than you think.
Of all the STDs diagnosed, only a few are required to be reported to the CDC and state health departments:
- Hepatitis A and B
But there are several types of STDs that aren’t reported. STDs fall into the following categories: ectoparasitic, bacterial, and viral.
Bacterial STDs are some of the most common STDs, and they include:
Gonorrhea is one of the most prevalent STDs among people aged 15 and 24. You can get this STD from oral sex, vaginal sex, and anal sex.
Pregnant women can pass this disease onto their babies.
The uncomfortable symptoms of this disease include:
- Green, yellow, or white discharge from the penis
- Painful urination
- Painful testicles
- Vaginal bleeding in between periods
- Anal itching
- Painful bowel movements
And if gonorrhea isn’t treated in women, it can lead to:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Scar tissue that blocks the fallopian tubes
- Chronic abdominal pain
Men can become sterile if they don’t get treated.
Chlamydia statistics show that this STD is one of the most prevalent in the U.S., and has been since 1994.
In 2015, there were 1,526,658 cases of chlamydia reported, which equates to 478.8 cases per 100,000 people. Between 2000 and 2011, cases of chlamydia have nearly doubled.
Most people who have chlamydia are asymptomatic, meaning they have no symptoms and don’t even know they have the disease. If you don’t get tested for STDs regularly, you could have this disease for a long time before even knowing it.
And by that time, the disease will have progressed to something worse.
Those that do have symptoms will experience:
- Increased discharge
- Burning when urinating
- Swelling and pain in the testicles
- Rectal pain
If women fail to get treatment in time, it can lead to infertility issues and PID (pelvic inflammatory disease).
Syphilis can lead to long-term and serious complications if not treated quickly. Symptoms progress in stages: primary, secondary, latent, and late.
Syphilis can cause a myriad of symptoms, many of which are similar to other diseases. The most common ones include:
- Rashes, ulcers and bumps on the skin
- Ulcers on the groin
- Increased vaginal discharge
- Wart growths on the genitals
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Unexplained weight loss
- Sore throat
Many people can live with syphilis for years untreated and never progress to the late stages of the disease. But those that do will experience very serious complications, and they typically don’t appear until 10-30 years later.
Late stage syphilis can lead to:
- Trouble coordinating muscle movements
- Damage to internal organs
In the late stages of the disease, syphilis can lead to death.
Other Common Bacterial STDs
- Bacterial Vaginosis
- Lymphogranuloma venereum
- Genital mycoplasma
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – The Most Common STD
HPV is the most common STD. In fact, most men and women will get this infection at some point in their lives. It’s spread through oral, vaginal, or anal sex.
For most people, HPV disappears on its own and never causes any problems. But in some cases, this infection can cause cancer and genital warts.
HPV has been linked to the following cancers:
About 79 million people are believed to have HPV in the United States, and 14 million new people become infected each year.
Herpes Simplex Virus
Herpes is another extremely common STD. How many people have herpes? About one in six people aged 14-49, according to herpes statistics from the CDC.
Genital herpes is spread through oral, vaginal, or oral sex when fluids from herpes sores comes in contact with bodily fluid.
There is no cure for genital herpes. And you can unknowingly pass this disease to your partner if you don’t get tested.
Other Common Viral STDs
- Hepatitis A, B, C & D
- Molluscum Contagiosum
- Epstein Barr virus
Ectoparasitic STDs are parasitic diseases caused by organisms that live externally on the host. STIs that fall into this category include:
Scabies is a skin condition caused by tiny parasites called scabies mites, and is passed through skin-to-skin contact. While this illness is most commonly transmitted during sexual contact, it can also be transmitted through non-sexual skin touching or even sharing clothing with someone who has scabies.
The most common symptoms of this disease include:
- Serious itching
Scabies is a very uncomfortable condition, and can be extremely embarrassing.
Public Lice (a.k.a. crabs)
Public lice is caused by tiny parasitic insects that live mostly in the genital area. Most people contract this disease through sexual contact.
The most common symptoms include:
- Genital itching
- Visible lice eggs or crawling lice
The Serious Risks of Not Getting Tested
Still think it’s not important to get tested for STDs?
Cases of sexually transmitted infections is rising rapidly in 2016, and is expected to continue increasing.
If you don’t get tested, you put yourself and your partners at risk. And you may not know you have certain STDs until it reaches the late, serious stages.
Remember, many STIs are asymptomatic. The only way to know if you have them is to get tested.
With new at-home, anonymous STD testing, there’s no excuse to put off getting tested.