Sexually transmitted infections such as syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia have increased nationwide, including in the borderland.
Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas’ El Paso Health Center reports significant increases on those diseases based on data compiled by the city’s Department of Public Health.
From 2015 to 2019, the number of reported syphilis cases in El Paso increased nearly 12% with nearly 270 reported in 2019, though the numbers fluctuated significantly during that time period.
Chlamydia infections increased 21% to nearly 6,000 cases reported in 2019, according to the data.
The largest jump, however, was in gonorrhea cases, which more than tripled during the same time period to nearly 2,000 cases in 2019. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that gonorrhea has progressively developed resistance to antibiotic drugs typically prescribed to treat it. The CDC is working to develop new treatments.
Combined cases of those three sexually transmitted diseases reached an all-time high in 2018 across the United States, according to a CDC report.
Data from the CDC’s Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report suggests contributing factors to the overall increase include:
Drug use, poverty, stigma and unstable housing, which can reduce access to STD prevention and care
Decreased condom use among vulnerable groups, including young people and gay and bisexual men
Budget cuts to STD programs at the state and local level – in recent years, more than half of local programs have experienced budget cuts, resulting in clinic closures, reduced screening, staff loss and reduced patient follow-up and linkage to care services
Antibiotics can cure syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia – but left untreated those STDs can be transmitted to others and lead to infertility, ectopic pregnancies and increased HIV risk.
Miscarriages, stillbirths, newborn deaths and severe physical and neurological problems can result from congenital syphilis – that which is passed from a mother to a baby during pregnancy, the CDC reports.
In El Paso, Planned Parenthood offers STI testing and treatment for insured and uninsured patients, who may qualify for a sliding fee scale based on their income.
The city’s Department of Public Health also offers STI testing at its clinics; and you can also check with your preferred health care provider.