April is STD Awareness Month, which gives us the opportunity to talk about sexual health in an inclusive way that speaks to individuals from all walks of life. Sex is a part of most of our lives—but sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) do not have to be one of the “facts of life.”
Here is the current situation in the United States:
- About 20 million new sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are diagnosed each year, half are among youth ages 15-24; young people and gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) continue to be disproportionately affected by these common STDs.
- More than 110 million new and existing STIs have been diagnosed among men and women overall.
- An estimated 44,073 people were diagnosed with HIV in 2014; an estimated 1.2 million are living with the disease.
- For the first time in more than a decade, rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis all increased in the same year.
- The number of babies born with syphilis spiked in recent years, a trend paralleling national increases of early syphilis in women.
- Reported cases of syphilis that has spread to the eye have also increased among men and women; however, the majority of these cases have been among MSM living with HIV.
The data and health outcomes are concerning, yes, but to protect yourself this STD Awareness Month, and all year long, hear and remember these words—Talk. Test. Treat.
Talk. Talk openly and honestly with your partner(s) and with your healthcare provider about your sexual practices, history, and STDs. Talk with your partner before having sex. Check out available resources to help you start the conversation. Talk with your healthcare provider about your sex life. If they don’t bring it up, take charge of your health and ask what tests for STDs and HIV you should be getting and how often.
Test. Get yourself tested. It’s the only way to know for sure if you have an STD. Check out this screening recommendations page to see what’s recommended routinely. Even if you are pregnant you are still at risk and screening recommendations apply. Visit this website to find a place to be tested near you.
Treat. If you test positive for an STD, work with your doctor to get the medically correct treatment, ASAP. Some STDs can be cured. HIV and other STDs aren’t curable, but they are treatable. Your doctor can talk with you about which medicines are right for you.
Life can be complicated, but good sexual health doesn’t have to be. Just remember these three things to protect yourself—Talk. Test. Treat. For more information and resources, please visit our STD Awareness Month website.