Feature Archive

The Scope of STDs

WebMD Feature

May 22, 2000 -- Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are a worldwide problem, with research underway in several countries towards developing better drugs and other treatments, as well as more effective prevention strategies, such as a possible vaccine for cervical cancer caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). Here are some of the most common STDs, as well as the scope of the problem in the United States and abroad:

  • Herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2), also known as genital herpes: About one in four Americans over the age of 12 is infected -- some 55 million people -- according to a March 23, 2000, article in the New England Journal of Medicine. An estimated 1 million new cases occur every year.
  • Human papilloma virus (HPV): Approximately 20 million Americans are infected and about 5.5 million new cases are identified annually.
  • Chlamydia: Because most victims do not exhibit symptoms, estimates of prevalence and incidence are difficult to make. The World Health Organization (WHO) says about 89 million new chlamydial infections occurred in 1997, and the American Social Health Association (AHSA) estimates that about 3 million new infections occur in the United States each year.
  • Hepatitis B: About three-quarters of a million people in the United States are estimated to have the disease, with nearly 80,000 new cases occurring annually as the result of sexual activity.
  • Gonorrhea: The WHO estimated that there were 62 million new cases worldwide in 1997; the AHSA says some 650,000 new cases occur annually in the United States.
  • Syphilis: While "virtually non-existent in most parts of the United States," according to the CDC, about 12 million new cases occurred worldwide in 1997, and about 70,000 new cases are diagnosed each year in the United States.
  • HIV and AIDS: An estimated 800,000 to 900,000 Americans have HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) today, with about 40,000 new infections diagnosed annually, more than half among African-Americans. Nearly 712,000 AIDS cases had been reported in the United States through June of 1999. About 420,000 people have died from AIDS in the United States, more than half of them African-American and Latino.

Scott Winokur often writes about health and medical issues.

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