Nearly 20 million new sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) occur in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). April is National STD Awareness Month, and the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) encourages Hoosiers to discuss prevention and know the risks.
Half of all new STDs that occur each year are among youths. These numbers highlight an urgent need for education about how to prevent the spread of STDs.
“Preventing the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases is vital because they are responsible for several health problems, including brain and nervous system damage, infertility and babies born premature or with low birth weight,” said State Health Commissioner Kris Box, MD, FACOG.
In addition, those who are diagnosed with an STD are more at risk to transmit HIV infection.
In Indiana, chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are of particular concern. In 2016, there were 30,847 cases of chlamydia, 9,451 cases of gonorrhea and 778 cases of primary and secondary syphilis reported in Indiana. The number of infectious syphilis cases in Indiana rose 70 percent between 2014 and 2015, and preliminary data for 2017 suggests an 11 percent increase in chlamydia rates, a 25 percent increase in gonorrhea rates and a 1 percent increase in total syphilis cases when compared to 2016.
“Most STDs can be treated, but the best protection is prevention,” said Box. “I urge anyone who is sexually active to get tested annually.”
Many STDs have no symptoms, meaning you can’t tell you have one without being tested. Once you know your status, you can take steps to protect yourself and your partner from STDs.
Effective ways to prevent STD transmission include abstinence, reducing the number of sexual partners, mutual monogamy with an uninfected partner, using latex condoms and getting vaccinated, especially against hepatitis B and human papillomavirus (HPV).
To learn more about how to protect yourself and your partner against STDs, visit the ISDH Division of HIV/STD/Viral Hepatitis web page at http://www.in.gov/isdh/17397.htm. There are several clinics throughout the state that offer STD testing. To find one near you, go to http://www.in.gov/isdh/files/2017%20STD%20Clinics.pdf.