Skip to main content

All Access Subscription

Get unlimited access to our full publication and article library.

Get Access Now

Interested in Group Sales? Learn more

Hospital Report logo small


The premier resource for hospital professionals from Relias Media, the trusted source for healthcare information and continuing education.

STI Epidemic: One in Five Americans Have an Infection

By Jill Drachenberg, Editor, Relias Media

One in five Americans had a sexually transmitted infection (STI) on any given day in 2018, according to an analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The incidence and prevalence analysis estimated about 69 million infections in 2018, with 25 million newly acquired STIs. Almost half of new infections occurred in people between ages 15 to 24 years. This translates to an estimated $16 billion in lifetime medical costs.

The analysis included the eight most common STIs: chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, herpes simplex virus type 2, HIV, human papillomavirus (HPV), syphilis, and trichomoniasis. Herpes, HPV, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis accounted for 98% of prevalent STIs. HPV was the most common, with a prevalence rate of 45.2 million. Associated costs were estimated at $755 million.

“The burden of STIs is staggering,” Jonathan Mermin, MD, MPH, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, said in a statement. “At a time when STIs are at an all-time high, they have fallen out of the national conversation. Yet, STIs are a preventable and treatable national health threat with substantial personal and economic impact. There is an urgent need to reverse the trend of increasing STIs, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected many STI prevention services.”

These data also underscore inequities in healthcare that put the hardest-hit groups at greater risk, the researchers noted. Women carry a disproportionate amount of disease burden, accounting for 75% of lifetime medical costs. Racial and ethnic minorities and those in the LGBTQ population also may be disproportionately affected. Social and economic conditions, such as poverty, drug use, unstable housing, and lack of health insurance, can make it difficult for people to obtain preventive care and stay healthy.

The CDC researchers suggested these tactics for overcoming barriers to STI prevention:

  • Clinics that provide walk-in STI testing and treatment without a full clinical exam;
  • Partnerships with pharmacies and retail health clinics to provide STI testing and other services;
  • Provide STI care via telemedicine, “which can ensure access to healthcare providers, support self-testing or self-collection, and is especially critical in rural areas,” researchers noted.