Sexually transmitted diseases are surging across the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In fact, rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis have sharply increased since 2013. Nearly 20 million new STI infections are reported annually, and half of all new STIs are diagnosed in people younger than 25.
While these trends are startling, STIs are preventable. Many are curable, and all are treatable. During STI Awareness Month, we wanted to share information that can help you protect yourself and your partner through prevention and testing for STIs.
Abstinence, or not having sex, is the most straightforward way to avoid getting STIs. Beyond abstinence, using a condom correctly every time can help prevent the spread of STIs.
While condoms cannot provide absolute protection against STIs, consistent and correct use of condoms can greatly reduce the risk of transmitting STIs. Many STIs don’t cause symptoms — so the surest way to know if you have an STI is to get tested.
Limiting the number of sexual partners you have is another way to prevent STIs. Talk with your partner and agree to only have sex with that person who will do the same. Some STIs, such as herpes and HPV (or human papillomavirus), can be spread through contact with your partner’s skin. HPV can be prevented with a vaccine.
Talk with your healthcare provider about your risk for HPV. The vaccine is typically administered to boys and girls ages 11 to 12, but it can be administered at a later date for certain groups of people.
According to the CDC, the only way to know for sure if you have an STI is to get tested. It is crucial to have a conversation with your sexual partner about staying safe before having sex.
If you are sexually active, it is your responsibility to get tested regularly and protect your health. Talk with your healthcare provider honestly about your sexual history. At Cempa Community Care, we offer regular, confidential screening for HIV, hepatitis C, syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea.
The CDC offers the following guidelines for which STI tests you may need.
> All adults and adolescents, ages 13 to 64 should be tested at least once for HIV.
> All sexually active women younger than 25 should be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia annually. Women older than 25 who have new or multiple partners or a partner with an STI should also be tested annually.
> All pregnant women should be tested for syphilis, HIV, and hepatitis B starting early in pregnancy. At-risk pregnant women may also need to be tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea.
> All sexually active gay and bisexual men should be tested annually for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. Those who have multiple or anonymous partners should be tested more frequently for STIs. Sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from more frequent HIV testing.
> Anyone who has unsafe sex or shares injection drug equipment should be tested for HIV at least annually.
All STIs, including HIV, are treatable. However, some STIs can lead to serious health problems if they’re not treated. Most STI tests are quick, simple, and usually painless. Start a conversation and make a plan with your partner about getting tested, and talk with your healthcare provider about a regular testing schedule.