Title: Increase in Congenital Syphilis Cases Call for Swift Action, Health Advocates Urge Biden Administration
Subtitle: Shortages of Preferred Medication and Lacking Funding Expose Vulnerable Communities
[McCreary County Record] – Health advocates are raising concerns and calling on the Biden administration to declare a public health emergency due to the alarming rise in congenital syphilis cases in the United States. Over the past decade, cases of this sexually transmitted infection (STI) have quintupled, leading to devastating consequences for children including stillbirths and birth defects.
Pfizer, the sole manufacturer of Bicillin L-A, the preferred medication for treating congenital syphilis, anticipates shortages until 2024. Consequently, public health leaders have been forced to prioritize pregnant patients, leaving others to resort to less effective alternatives. This scarcity of Bicillin L-A is projected to disproportionately affect the LGBTQ+ community and men who have sex with men, who already face higher rates of syphilis transmissions.
In a bid to address the urgent need for more medication, health advocates are urging the Biden administration to utilize the Defense Production Act, which would enable the manufacture of additional Bicillin L-A within the U.S. Currently, a federal task force has been established to tackle the surge in syphilis and congenital syphilis cases, however, public health officials emphasize that more action is required.
The disruption caused by the ongoing pandemic has significantly contributed to a 30.5% increase in congenital syphilis cases from 2020 to 2021 in the United States. With limited funds available for STI prevention and treatment, including syphilis, the nation has witnessed a resurgence of the infection. Since 2003, funding for STI prevention and treatment has remained stagnant, leading to a loss in purchasing power and hindering crucial efforts to combat the disease.
The impact of congenital syphilis is not evenly distributed across the country. Mississippi, for instance, has experienced a staggering 74.5% spike in cases between 2020 and 2021, highlighting the urgent need for localized response and resources. Regional disparities are evident, with the southwest and deep south regions being the most affected by the disease.
Public health officials have identified various factors that have contributed to this “perfect storm” for increased syphilis cases, including stagnant and siloed funding. Federal funding allocations often lack agility, and state funds are insufficient to allocate resources where they are most needed in real time. This situation has underscored the necessity for immediate action and enhanced collaboration between federal, state, and local health agencies.
As the nation grapples with the resurgence of congenital syphilis cases and the scarcity of the preferred medication for its treatment, health advocates are urging the Biden administration to declare a public health emergency and employ all available measures to address the crisis. By ramping up the production of Bicillin L-A and allocating sufficient funds to combat the STI outbreak, a comprehensive response can be mounted to protect the health and well-being of vulnerable communities and prevent further casualties from this preventable and treatable disease.
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