Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Fiscal Reality

A few days ago, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a fact sheet that should have shocked this nation, but it didn't.  Among other things, the report revealed that there were more than 110,000,000 sexually transmitted disease (STD) infections in America in 2008.  It's difficult to say what percent of our population is infected because many people have more than one STD. 

The fact sheet also said that there were 20,000,000 new cases of STDs reported in 2008.  That statistic dwarfs the number of new jobs being created by our economy annually even now -- five years later.  The medical cost associated with STDs was a staggering $16 billion in 2010 dollars.

According to the fact sheet,

CDC's new estimates were developed using the best available data. The estimates are based on national surveys, nationally notifiable disease case reports, and data from special projects. The primary data source used to estimate the number of most prevalent infections was the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a nationally representative sample of the civilian, non-institutionalized population in the United States that includes testing for STIs. CDC used conservative assumptions in generating its estimates, so the true numbers of STIs in the United States may be even higher than estimated.

When calculating the number of prevalent and incident infections, only those infections that were sexually transmitted were counted. In general, CDC estimated the total number of infections in the calendar year, rather than the number of individuals with infection, since one person can have more than one STI at a given time (e.g., HPV and chlamydia) or more than one episode of a single STI (e.g., repeat chlamydia infection). Because 20 percent of people with HPV are infected with more than one type, HPV infections were calculated per person so that individuals infected with multiple HPV types would not be double counted. If each HPV infection was considered, the totals would show an even higher burden of infection.

CDC's cost estimates reflect the lifetime direct medical cost per case of eight common STIs in the United States and do not include either indirect costs (e.g., loss of productivity) or intangible costs (e.g., pain and suffering) associated with many STIs. Including such costs would have resulted in a substantially higher estimated economic burden.

Last week, ran a piece about the problem, but the mainstream media for the most part ignored it completely.  Why media titans chose to pay no heed to such an important report is anyone's guess.  I suspect that it had something to do with the fact that drawing attention to the negative consequences associated with promiscuous sex undermines their beliefs about a number of politically charged issues including gay marriage, the right to choose, and sex education for young children, to name just a few.  Whatever the case may be, their silence was deafening.

Judging by the rapidly escalating moral decay in our society and the willingness of Americans to accept perversions as alternate lifestyles, I have a strong hunch that the STD problem is more serious now than it was in 2008.  If things continue as they are, I suspect that it will be even worse in the years ahead.  This is an important matter that all of us need to consider because it means that the health risks for our children and our grandchildren are growing quickly as are the costs that we must bear to treat people with diseases that could have been avoided.

Our STD problem is just one more indicator that something is wrong with the soul of America.  Societal depravity and self-indulgence have both moral and fiscal consequences that we can't ignore no matter how hard we try.  We get daily reminders as we watch our nation's debt climb to stratospheric levels due in large part to health care costs that are spiraling out of control. 

A vote for moral sanity is a vote for fiscal common sense.  Keep that in mind as we approach the 2014 election.

Neil Snyder is the Ralph A. Beeton Professor Emeritus at the University of Virginia.  His blog,, is posted daily.

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