Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are serious illnesses that can cause long-term health problems and even death. According to the United States government, screening and treating STDs can reduce mortality. Research is needed to determine if STD-related morbidity among women of reproductive age has declined in the past decade. To assess this, I used the multiple cause of death database available at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics.
I calculated a crude mortality rate (deaths per 100,000 women of reproductive age per year) by dividing the total number of deaths for each STD by the population of women of reproductive age during that year. I identified mortality related to STDs with this database, which provides access to death certificate data for residents. At the time of death, a single International Classification of Diseases (ICD) code is provided to define a single cause of death for each deceased. If multiple causes of death are identified, up to 30 ICD codes are listed under cause of multiple death.
In 1975, the mortality rate for pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) was 0.29 deaths per 100,000 women aged 15 to 44. The mortality rate from PID has fallen by 90% over the past 35 years to only a few deaths per year. This marked improvement is presumably due to ongoing efforts to detect chlamydia and gonorrhea, early diagnosis, and multidrug therapy. It's no surprise that HIV is deadly. Given the amount of ink dedicated to the dangers of HIV and AIDS, it is well known that HIV is an extremely harmful disease. The good news is that the sooner you seek treatment, the better your chances of mitigating the effects of HIV. All forms of hepatitis can be life-threatening and can lead to liver failure and death if left untreated.
All hepatitis A, B and C can be transmitted through sexual contact and, under the worst circumstances, can lead to liver failure and death. Future analyses should assess the temporal trends in disability-adjusted life years lost due to STDs and identify particularly vulnerable groups of women. While I have described a significant reduction in STD-related mortality among women of reproductive age in the United States, I did not address child deaths due to perinatal acquisition of sexually transmitted diseases. Between 1955 and 1975, STDs such as syphilis and PID were responsible for 20 to 30% of reproductive mortality among women aged 15 to 44. However, urgent action from all types of stakeholders is needed to help control the increase in STDs. In fact, unlike other diseases, STDs tend to be shrouded in mystery and the dangers of STDs are often misrepresented. Health care providers should make screening for sexually transmitted diseases and timely treatment a standard part of health care; this work can begin with the preparation of a complete sexual history. For example, CDC provides resources to state and local health departments for the prevention and surveillance of STDs. Congenital syphilis (the syphilis transmitted from mother to baby during pregnancy) can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, newborn death, and serious lifelong physical and neurological problems.
Early prenatal care and STD testing are essential in every pregnancy to protect mothers and their babies from the dangers of syphilis. In addition, state and local health departments must strengthen the local public health infrastructure needed to prevent and control STDs, and ensure that resources are directed to the most vulnerable populations.