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Home HPV Research HPV Research ASHA Report: States Spend Billions to Treat STDs

ASHA Report: States Spend Billions to Treat STDs

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States spend nearly 15 billion dollars each year to treat new cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STD), and a new study by ASHA finds much more can be done to stem the epidemic.

An estimated 19 million new STD infections occur each year in the U.S. – HPV alone accounts for approximately 6 million cases – yet states have slashed spending on STD prevention programs. While the average per capita spending for all public health was $40.25 across the U.S., in FY 2009, states reported only spending an average of $0.16 per capita of that on STD prevention, a reduction from $0.23 in FY 2007.

With STDs continuing to be a major public health challenge (rates of chlamydia and syphilis are climbing, for example), states are increasingly looking to Washington for help. In FY 2009, states reported funding about one tenth of their total STD prevention effort. Since ASHA’s last report (FY 2007), the federal government is funding an increasing share of STD prevention budgets, from 75% of the total in FY 2007, to 90% of the total in FY 2009. Much of the increased federal funding was tied to stimulus spending and is unlikely to be maintained, however.

Budgets are under pressure everywhere, and the desire to restrain pending is understandable. However, principal investigator of the study and ASHA Vice President of Research and Health Communications, Lisa K. Gilbert, PhD, says diverting funds from prevention programs may be short-sighted: “STD prevention is much less expensive than treatment, especially when you count the health consequences that often result. Fully funding prevention efforts is an effective means of avoiding more costly interventions and serious health outcomes. These programs remain a cornerstone of good public health policy.”

Thirty states reported funding decreases leading to reductions in staff, training, capacity building, and services (both clinic and laboratory) as well as increases in furloughs. The range for state’s public health funding in general, and STD prevention funding specifically, was enormous. For example, per capita public health funding in Nevada compared with Hawaii was $3.55 and $169.92, respectively. STD prevention funding also ranged wildly from $0 per capita in three states (Colorado, Indiana, and South Carolina) to $1.57 in Louisiana. ASHA President and CEO Lynn Barclay says “Literally, your health could depend on where you live. Such discrepancies are heart-breaking and unfair. Robust prevention programs save dollars and protect our health. It only makes sense to fund them at adequate levels.”

Medical care related to STDs and reproductive health is tricky even beyond matters of funding and program support. Dr. Gilbert says barriers include time, transportation, and child care. Embarrassment and shame also keep many from accessing vital prevention and screening services, as does fear around testing/vaccines (such as with getting “shots”) and even anxiety over what the test results might reveal.

Visit ASHA for the full report and an interactive, searchable website that details state-by-state investment in STD prevention. This study was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).