Syphilis, HIV, and hepatitis B and C are serious illnesses that can cause long-term health problems and even death. Some STIs, such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV and syphilis, can be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy or delivery. STIs in babies can cause serious problems or even death. All pregnant women should be screened for these infections and treated.
The Department of Health and Human Services, which includes the CDC, is developing a federal action plan (STI plan) to address and reverse the country's STD epidemic. Syphilis firmly falls into the field of STDs that are only dangerous for adults if left untreated for a significant period of time. 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. I calculated a crude mortality rate (deaths per 100,000 women of reproductive age per year) by dividing the total number of deaths from each STI by the population of women of reproductive age that year.
Low birth weight and prematurity appear to be associated with STDs, including chlamydia infection and trichomoniasis. Other sexually transmitted diseases include human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), trichomoniasis, bacterial vaginosis, cytomegalovirus infections, and pubic lice (crabs). Between 1955 and 1975, sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis and PID were responsible for 20 to 30% of reproductive mortality among women aged 15 to 44. However, if left untreated, STDs can be transmitted to other people and produce adverse health outcomes, such as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and increased risk of contracting HIV. Not all STDs are life-threatening; however, all STDs pose the potential for additional complications if not treated properly.
For example, CDC provides resources to state and local health departments for the prevention and surveillance of STDs. Some STDs can spread to the uterus (womb) and fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which causes both infertility and ectopic (tubal) pregnancy. The current CDC funding program for health departments, entitled Strengthening STD Prevention and Control for Health Departments, supports several high-priority strategies and activities, including the elimination of congenital syphilis. More than 20 STDs have been identified and are estimated to affect about 19 million men and women in this country each year.
I identified STD-related mortality in the multiple-cause of death database available at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics. Trachomatis and genital herpes are associated with STD-related neonatal complications caused by premature birth, chorioamnionitis, and disseminated infection. This is particularly bad for people who mistake certain STDs for being harmless; even though an STD is curable or treatable, it doesn't mean you should ignore it.