Sept. 20, 2022 -- Some sexually transmitted diseases are spiking in the United States, with more syphilis cases reported last year any time since 1948, health officials say.

Rates of syphilis infections soared 26% in 2021 over the prior year, reaching the highest rate of growth since 1996. New HIV cases rose 16% last year, as well.

Now, with monkeypox on the scene, the situation is “out of control,” David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, told the Associated Press.

Experts say the increases could be due to lack of testing and prevention efforts, delayed diagnosis during the pandemic, drug and alcohol use, and the decline in condom use – plus a sex surge after COVID-19 lockdown.

“It is imperative that we ... work to rebuild, innovate, and expand (STD) prevention in the U.S.,” said Leandro Mena, MD, of the CDC said in a speech Sept. 19 at the 2022 STD Prevention Conference.

Prevention efforts could result in at-home tests for STDs similar to home pregnancy tests, as well as a higher use of condoms. Health officials also want more funding for prevention and treatment.

Syphilis is a bacterial disease that causes genital sores. Left untreated, it can lead to severe symptoms and can be fatal.

With common use of antibiotics in the 1940s, syphilis infection rates began falling – and bottomed at 7,000 new cases in 1998.

By 2002, they had started rising again, largely among gay and bisexual men. There were more than 52,000 new cases in 2021, up from 41,700 in 2020.

Rates are highest among men who have sex with men, and among Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans. Female infections jumped about 50% last year.