Chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhea skyrocket as Americans ditch condoms: just 40% of men now ‘wrap it up’

Americans are ditching condoms, even as STI rates soar.

Chlamydia cases have more than doubled in the past 20 years, according to data from the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC).

The pandemic is believed to have further fueled the increase, due to underreporting of infections.

Covid may have led to increased transmission, the CDC said, as reduced access to healthcare during lockdowns meant people were infected longer and had a better chance of overcoming their STIs.

Last year, cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis rose to 2.5 million. In 2017, the three STDs accounted for 2.3 million cases.

At the same time, less than half of men use condoms, up from 75 to 55 percent since 2011.

And a growing number trust women to use birth control, according to an annual family planning report from the Office of Population Affairs.

Men who have sex with men are at higher risk of infections than heterosexuals, since they are more likely to have multiple recent partners and STIs spread easily in small groups of people.

Experts say it’s due to the increased availability of drugs to prevent HIV and pregnancy.

David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, told the Washington Post: ‘Historically, young people, when they have used condoms, have largely been afraid to use them because of the threat of HIV or unwanted pregnancy. Now they have more options to prevent those things.’

There are now also treatments that allow HIV-positive people to live long and full lives, while the morning-after pill has become more readily available for women.

Some worry that this could change after the Supreme Court’s decision to quash Roe v. Wade, and sales skyrocketed shortly after the announcement.

Gonorrhea has been on the rise since 2012, with rates in men per 100,000 in men increasing significantly more than in women

Gonorrhea has been on the rise since 2012, with rates in men per 100,000 in men increasing significantly more than in women

Syphilis has experienced a sharp increase in the rate per 100,000 since 2012, with a higher prevalence in men again.  In the last twenty years, cases have multiplied by more than 27

Syphilis has experienced a sharp increase in the rate per 100,000 since 2012, with a higher prevalence in men again.  In the last twenty years, cases have multiplied by more than 27

Syphilis has experienced a sharp increase in the rate per 100,000 since 2012, with a higher prevalence in men again. In the last twenty years, cases have multiplied by more than 27

Chlamydia has been on a more steady rise since 2012. But since 2001, cases have more than doubled

Chlamydia has been on a more steady rise since 2012. But since 2001, cases have more than doubled

Chlamydia has been on a more steady rise since 2012. But since 2001, cases have more than doubled

The chart above shows the percentage of high school students who used a condom the last time they had sex.  Use has declined since 2003 is the 2019 rate now below the 1997 rate, according to an annual CDC survey

The chart above shows the percentage of high school students who used a condom the last time they had sex.  Use has declined since 2003 is the 2019 rate now below the 1997 rate, according to an annual CDC survey

The chart above shows the percentage of high school students who used a condom the last time they had sex. Use has declined since 2003: The 2019 rate is now below the 1997 rate, according to an annual CDC survey

WHAT IS GONORRHEA?

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae, or gonococcus.

This bacterium is usually found in discharge from the penis or vaginal fluid.

It is transmitted through unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal sex, as well as by sharing vibrators or sex toys that have been used without a condom.

The bacteria can infect the cervix, urethra, rectum, throat, or eyes.

It can also spread from pregnant women to their unborn babies.

Because the bacteria cannot survive outside the body for long, gonorrhea is not spread by kissing, hugging, sharing towels, toilets, or swimming.

About one in 10 men and half of women do not experience symptoms.

However, these may include:

  • Thick green or yellow discharge from the genitals
  • pain when urinating
  • Bleeding between periods in women.

Treatment is usually a single injection of antibiotic and a tablet.

Gonorrhea can be prevented by using condoms during sex and not sharing sex toys.

Font: NHS options

Washington DC bar owner John Guggenmos said has seen the condom drop in real time in its bars.

He said: ‘It was a staple in the ’90s: you had vodka behind the bar and condoms at the front door.

‘Now they just don’t get used, they get torn down, so we just stopped. There are some behind the bar, but who’s going to ask a bartender for them?

The introduction of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV, taken in the form of pills or daily injections, led people to have unprotected sex with a much lower risk of contracting HIV.

But it left them vulnerable to other infections like gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis.

Some 783,242 chlamydia cases were reported to the CDC in 2001, which increased dramatically to 1,628,397 in 2021.

And chlamydia rates in 2021 are about twice as high in women as in men.

Syphilis is also on the rise: cases have multiplied by more than 27 since 6,103 in 2001 to 171,074 last year.

In 2011, three-quarters (75 percent) of men used condoms as their primary method of birth control, but this number has now dropped to 42 percent, according to federal family planning surveys.

And the percentage of high school students who used a condom the last time they had sex dropped from 63 percent in 2003 to 54 percent in 2019, according to an annual government survey.

Around half of the STIs in 2018 were in people aged 15-24.

Multiple health departments across the United States have reported an increase in condomless sex among men who have sex with men.

If the rate continues to grow, it could ‘halt progress in ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic’, CDC researchers said.

In 2019, the US announced an ambitious plan to completely eradicate HIV from the nation by 2030.

It is not certain that PrEP is to blame for the rise in STIs, as studies suggest that PrEP users are simultaneously least likely use condoms but also more like to be tested as he has to take an STI test to get the medicine.

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