Drive on highways in Philadelphia, and you’ll see typical billboards advertising products and services ranging from snack foods to health insurance, to personal injury attorneys. And then there’s a new, more jarring one: “DRUG RESISTANT GONORRHEA ALERT,” it cries in all capital letters, accompanied by an illustration of a boat hitting an iceberg, where most of the floating mass is below water.
The billboard from the AHF Wellness Center, which has locations across the U.S., is disturbing, but drug-resistant gonorrhea is one of a handful of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that are becoming more dangerous and common, experts say.
According to the CDC, more than 2.5 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were reported in the U.S. in 2021, about 6% more than in 2020. Reported syphilis cases hit 176,000 in 2021, up from about 134,000 in 2020—as high as numbers have been since the 1950s. Congenital syphilis rose 32%, leading to 220 infant deaths and stillbirths.