WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently released the first-ever national plan to address the public health crisis caused by alarming increases in rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the United States over the past six years. The STI National Strategic Plan 2021-2025 (STI Plan) sets national goals, objectives, and strategies to respond to the STI epidemic. The plan will serve as a roadmap to help federal and non-federal stakeholders at all levels and in all sectors reverse the sharp upward trends in STI rates.
“The consequences of the STI epidemic are steep. When left untreated, STIs can lead to long-term, irreversible health outcomes affecting the quality of life for millions of Americans and costing the health care system billions of dollars annually,” said Admiral Brett P. Giroir, M.D., Assistant Secretary for Health. “The STI Plan provides an actionable roadmap to develop and implement programs at the national, state and local levels to help our nation stem and reverse the growing STI epidemic in the U.S.”
Increases in STIs have been dramatic. From 2014–2018, the most recent available data, the rates of reported cases of primary and secondary syphilis, congenital syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia rose 71%, 185%, 63%, and 19%, respectively. Human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common STI, accounts for 14 million new infections each year.
The impact of the STI epidemic does not fall equally across all populations and regions. Adolescents and young adults, men who have sex with men, and pregnant women are disproportionately impacted by STIs. Social determinants of health contribute to a substantial unequal burden of STIs in Black, American Indian/Alaska Native and Hispanic communities. In addition, people living in the Southern and Western regions of the U.S. are disproportionately affected.
This inaugural STI Plan lays out a clear vision for preventing those consequences:
“The United States will be a place where sexually transmitted infections are prevented and where every person has high-quality STI prevention, care, and treatment while living free from stigma and discrimination.
“This vision includes all people, regardless of age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, geographic location, or socioeconomic circumstance.”
The STI Plan’s five goals to guide planning efforts are:
- Prevent new STIs;
- Improve the health of people by reducing adverse outcomes of STIs;
- Accelerate progress in STI research, technology, and innovation;
- Reduce STI-related health disparities and health inequities; and
- Achieve integrated, coordinated efforts that address the STI epidemic.
Each goal has a set of objectives and strategies to help guide federal partners and other stakeholders toward achieving them. The objectives and strategies are evidence- and science-based, flexible, integrated, and promote innovative approaches.
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