Of high concern is that congenital syphilis cases — that is, syphilis in newborns — nearly quadrupled between 2015 and 2019, reaching 1,870 cases. From 2018 to 2019 the number of stillbirths caused by syphilis increased from 79 to 94, and the number of congenital syphilis-related infant deaths rose from 15 to 34 deaths.
While the 2019 STD statistics reflect pre-COVID-19 pandemic numbers, preliminary data from 2020 suggests many of the same trends continued during the pandemic. Experts attribute some of the growth in STDs in 2020 to disruptions in STD testing and treatment programs caused by the pandemic.
According to the CDC, some of the common STDs are chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), human papillomavirus (HPV), and syphilis. “Many of these STDs do not show symptoms for a long time,” per the CDC, “but they can still be harmful and passed on during sex.”
Virtually all STDs can be transmitted through anal, vaginal, or oral sex. In addition, some STDs can also be transmitted through close skin-to-skin contact, even if no intercourse occurs.
HPV, for example, can be spread through skin-to-skin touching. In addition, “Molluscum contagiosum, a viral skin disease, can be spread through sexual or casual contact, as can scabies, an itchy skin condition caused by a mite infestation. It is also possible to get scabies from an infected sleeping bag or bed,” says Edward W. Hook III, MD, an endowed professor of infectious disease translational research in the departments of medicine, epidemiology, and microbiology at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, who works with the CDC.
STDs don’t just affect the genital regions: “Oral herpes can be transmitted through oral and genital sex,” says Dr. Hook.