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Men Ditching Condoms As Gonorrhea and Syphilis Rates Rise

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  • The number of men who use condoms as their main form of birth control dropped 33% over the past 10 years.
  • At the same time, STD cases remain high and experts worry about their spread.
  • Health experts say long-acting birth control and HIV prevention medications could be making condoms less popular.

An increasing number of men are having condom-free sex, causing sexually-transmitted disease experts to sound the alarm as cases of gonorrhea and syphilis continue to rise, according to the Washington Post. 

The rate of men using condoms as their main contraceptive dropped 33% since 2011, according to national survey data from the Department of Health and Human Services. In 2011, 75% of men used condoms, while 42% reporting using them as a first choice in 2021.

The trend is concerning to sexually-transmitted disease experts, since untreated syphilis can lead to infertility, organ damage, and death. Gonorrhea is also starting to become resistant to certain antibiotics, making it more difficult to treat. 

During a bi-annual STD Prevention Conference in September, David Harvey, the executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, called the STD rate “out of control.”

In 2021, there were a total of 2.5 million new cases of gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia, the three STDs local health departments must track, according to preliminary CDC data.

Syphilis cases are the highest they’ve been since 1991, with a total of 171,074 new cases in 2021. There’s also been an uptick in congenital syphilis, which is passed from mother to baby in the womb. There were 2,677 new cases in 2021, and at least 139 newborns died of it in 2020.

Health experts say long-acting birth control and the HIV prevention medication pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) could be driving men to avoid condoms.

However, there’s no data to show a correlation between the use of these medications and a drop in condom use. PrEP users must also get regular STD screenings for a doctor to prescribe them the medication.

“Historically, young people when they’ve used condoms have largely been scared into using them by the threat of HIV or an unintended pregnancy. They have more options now to prevent those things,” Harvey told the Washington Post.

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