For the second year in a row, California has seen a sharp increase in sexually transmitted disease rates, reaching a 20-year high, a report by state health officials shows.
The report by the California Department of Public Health shows total STD cases reported is rising at a faster pace in the state compared to the rest of the country.
"Cases of syphilis, gonorrhea and Chlamydia are going up in California at a concerning rate," CDPH Director Dr. Karen Smith said in a release. "This is the second year in a row that we have seen increases in all three diseases."
In California, numbers indicate an 11.6 percent increase in reportable STDs from 2014 to 2015, with the largest being a 29 percent jump in syphilis. There was also a 20 percent jump in gonorrhea and a nine percent increase in chlamydia.
Nationally, chlamydia rose six percent, gonorrhea jumped 13 percent and primary and secondary syphilis increased nine percent. Chlamydia, the most common reportable STD in California, is at its highest level since reporting was mandated in 1990.
Some of the highest numbers the report found were among gay and bisexual men. Data showed men who have sex with men account for more than 62 percent of the state’s gonorrhea cases and 84 percent of the primary and secondary syphilis cases.
The data also showed high numbers in young people age 15 to 24, and more specifically young women. The CDPH attributed the surges to declines in condom use and an increase in sexual partners.
Cheri Grevin, the Director of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood-Mar Monte, told ABC10 that increased use in long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) could also be a cause for the surge in STDs in young women.
“Compare [the STD data] to the decrease in teen pregnancy,” Grevin said, referring to the 55 percent decrease in teen pregnancy since 1990. “LARC methods have become more accessible … [It] means girls are taking more control of that to keep themselves from getting pregnant. That’s where the decrease in condom use comes from.”
Officials also attribute lack of health care access to much of the increased data.
“Access to quality STD care, testing and treatment is a critical component of STD prevention,” officials with the CDPH said in a statement. “Our surveillance data demonstrate ongoing disparities in STD rates by race and ethnicity, with African Americans experiencing higher rates of STD compared with other race/ethnic groups.”
The report showed young African American women had high rates of chlamydia and African American men saw a sharp increase in gonorrhea.
“Communities of color that are also suffering from high poverty … there are extra borders that make it difficult to take care of themselves,” Grevin explained.
Ultimately, Grevin said it comes down to sexual education, and the lack of it.
“Looking at the data year over year, what’s going to be most important is going to be education,” Grevin said. “Education in California is trying to figure that out, how to provide a comprehensive, fact-based curriculum to implement.”