For the first time in nearly a decade, three of the most well-known sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise—and CDC experts are calling the increase "alarming," NBC News reports. In the agency's latest findings, there were nearly 20,000 syphilis cases in 2014 (a 15% rise from 2013, and the highest rate since 1994), including 458 cases in newborns—a 27.5% increase from the year before. On the gonorrhea front, 350,000 cases were reported in 2014 (a 5% increase), while chlamydia racked up 1.4 million cases in 2014, which is the highest number of cases of any disease ever reported to the CDC. But while young people and women usually end up being most affected, there's another group that doctors are now keeping an eye on. "We are concerned that most of the surging rates are among men," says the director of the CDC's STD prevention division, per HealthDay News. "Men are driving these increases."
So what's the root of this surge? Slashed budgets for state and local STD initiatives, for one, meaning clinic closings or reduced hours and increased fees and copays, NBC notes. Another contributor is a change in sexual behavior, especially among gay and bisexual men, based on advances in HIV treatment: Because drugs for the virus are so effective, people have let down their guard and stopped wearing condoms as much—but condoms are still needed to prevent STDs like syphilis and gonorrhea. "America's worsening STD epidemic is a clear call for better diagnosis, treatment, and prevention," a CDC doctor tells the AP. For policymakers wary of prevention programs' costs, an American Sexual Health Association rep makes another crucial point, per HealthDay News: STDs run up a $16 billion bill each year. (There's a new STD in town, folks.)