This article is published in partnership with the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) as part of our joint series on STD Awareness.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major epidemic in the United States. Each year, there are approximately 19 million new cases of STDs, approximately half of which go undiagnosed and untreated, making the United States the country with the highest STD rate in the industrialized world. STDs cost the U.S. health care system $17 billion every year — and that number doesn’t even take into account the costs to individuals of STDs, the short-term and long-term consequences, including infertility, increased risk of acquiring HIV, and certain cancers.
And it is because of this, I am here to make the case for increased funding for the Division of STD Prevention (DSTDP) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Now I am not an advocate who lives under a rock. I know these are fiscally-challenging times, to put it mildly. I know that when a congressional staffer says (as I did when I worked for a Member of Congress), “Flat funding is the new increase” that he or she speaks the truth.
Yet, these statements chafe me. It is not the factual basis of this statement that I take issue with, but the idea that this is something we should all accept. Investments in our country’s public health are investments in our country’s healthy future. These investments are crucial not only for maintaining healthy individuals, but these are the investments in the infrastructure that we rely on when there is an outbreak or an unforeseen disaster. And I refuse to believe that we live in a county where it’s okay to let people fall through the cracks. Because in 2009, African Americans had 20 times the reported gonorrhea rates than whites. And that is just one alarming statistic. I could list many, many more that highlight the sexual health disparities in this country.