Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment are Key to Addressing Nationwide Spike in STIs

April 03, 2023 Categories: ACLA Blog, ACLA News

April is Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) Awareness Month, a time to encourage conversation and education around the importance of sexual health in promoting overall wellness. When undiagnosed and left untreated, STIs can lead to irreversible health outcomes such as chronic pelvic pain, infertility, adverse pregnancy outcomes, neonatal death, and congenital abnormalities, and can facilitate human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) acquisition. Human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause numerous forms of cancer, although most HPV types associated with cancer are preventable through vaccination. What’s more, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports a continued and alarming increase in the spread of STIs, driven partly by reduced screenings early in the COVID-19 pandemic.[1] Screening, early diagnosis and treatment are essential to maintaining overall health.

Amid this worrisome increase, ACLA is highlighting the vital role of clinical laboratories in accurately identifying STIs so health care providers can treat or cure these infections and help stem their spread.

Sexually transmitted infections impact millions of Americans each year, with the overall reported number of STIs increasing since 2014. In fact, the CDC reports that between 2016 and 2020, cases of gonorrhea increased 45 percent; syphilis increased 52 percent; and congenital syphilis (mother-to-baby) increased by a staggering 235 percent.[2] While the prevalence of these infections has increased as a whole, young people, racial and ethnic minorities, and gay and bisexual men have been disproportionately impacted.

Given the continued prevalence of STIs, the CDC and U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommend regular screenings for most adolescents and adults. For example, USPSTF recommends screening for gonorrhea and chlamydia in all sexually active women ages 24 years or younger and women ages 25 years or older who are at increased risk for infection.[3] Clinical laboratory tests accurately identify patients with gonorrhea and chlamydia by utilizing swab tests collected by a patient’s clinician, which can then be easily treated.[4]

STI detection through clinical laboratory testing can save lives. When used for cervical cancer screening, research has shown that testing for HPV reduces a woman’s likelihood of developing ovarian cancer when compared to those who have not been tested for HPV.[5] Also, research has highlighted that clinical laboratory tests can predict the risk of serious complications resulting from syphilis.[6]

Sexual health is an important component of an individual’s overall health and wellness. With a continued increase of STI prevalence across the country, there’s an urgent need for timely screening and clinical testing. America’s clinical laboratories take seriously their role in providing clear insights to bolster health across the nation.    

For more information on screening for sexually transmitted infections, visit

[1] Centers for Disease Control & Prevention,

[2] Centers for Disease Control & Prevention,   

[3] U.S. Preventive Services Task Force,   

[4] Martin, D H, et al. “Multicenter Evaluation of AMPLICOR and Automated Cobas AMPLICOR CT/NG Tests for Neisseria Gonorrhoeae.” Journal of Clinical Microbiology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2000,

[5] Ogilvie, Gina Suzanne, et al. “Effect of Screening with Primary Cervical HPV Testing vs Cytology Testing on High-Grade Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia at 48 Months.” JAMA, vol. 320, no. 1, 2018, p. 43.,

[6] Marra, Christina M., et al. “Cerebrospinal Fluid Abnormalities in Patients with Syphilis: Association with Clinical and Laboratory Features.” The Journal of Infectious Diseases, vol. 189, no. 3, 2004, pp. 369–376.,

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