- WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A new study shows that the United States has an "astronomical
number" of new cases per year of sexually transmitted diseases, or
- Experts say the study, done by the American
Social Health Association and Kaiser Family Foundation, indicates it's
time the nation confront the issue -- particularly because everyone who
is sexually active is at risk.
- "There are about 15 million new
cases of STDs in the U.S. each year," said Linda Alexander of the
American Social Health Association. "That's an astronomical number.
It's one of the highest rates of all industrialized countries in the world."
- The new figure represents about three
million more cases a year than were detected in the 1980s, when detection
for STDs was not as accurate.
- One in four affected
- According to the study, STDs affect one
in four U.S. citizens over a lifetime. The risks associated with STDs range
from sterility to cancer to death.
- One in five Americans over age 12 has
contracted genital herpes, according to the study. That's about 45 million
- The top STDs include four that can be
treated with antibiotics: Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and trichomoniasis.
- They also include viral infections that
have no cure: genital herpes, genital warts (also known as human papilloma
virus), hepatitis B and HIV, which causes AIDS.
- "If you have a sexually transmitted
disease, you're more likely to acquire HIV if you're exposed to it and
you're more likely to transmit HIV if you have it," Alexander said.
- Hidden virus goes untreated
- Some people can contract an STD and never
see a symptom, which means the disease goes untreated and the patient continues
- When Barbara Wilkop got pregnant with
her son Jimmy in the mid-1980s, she had no idea she had contracted genital
- The hidden virus led to a premature delivery
and her son suffered from encephalitis.
- Now 11 years old, Jimmy has been left
with the brain capacity of a three-year-old.
- "The social stigma involved prevents
people from going out and getting a diagnosis," Wilkop told CNN. "Being
a nurse, having a college degree in nursing, I did not know that I had
- Experts say a national discussion on
the issue could help change social attitudes toward STDs.
- Experts also say some major challenges
must be overcome in order to beat back the high rate of STDs. Those challenges
include getting doctors to talk about STDs with their patients and convincing
both men and women to get tested and to use protection.
- Correspondent Louise Schiavone contributed
to this report.