April is sexually transmitted disease (STD) awareness month. The month provides individuals, medical providers, and community-based organizations with a timely opportunity to prevent some of the nearly 20 million new STDs that occur in the United States yearly.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published new analyses in 2013, providing for an overview of the burden of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the U.S. Based on the data, there are an estimated 20 million new infections in the U.S. each year, costing our healthcare system nearly $16 billion in direct medical costs alone. It is estimated that about 50% of all new STIs occur among young men and women. The newest data highlights figures that exceed 110 million. This is cause for growing concern among college students, as well as for other stakeholders throughout the American healthcare system.
Of the nearly 20 million new STIs in the U.S. each year, many of these may not cause harm, while others have the potential to cause serious health problems, especially if not diagnosed and treated early. “Young people (ages 15-24) are particularly affected, accounting for half (50%) of all new STIs, although they represent just 25% of the sexually experienced population.”
While the consequences of untreated STIs are often worse for young women, findings reveal that the annual number of new infections is roughly equal among young women and young men (49% among young men, vs. 51% among young women). Some of the sexually transmitted infections are easily treated and cured if diagnosed early; however, many of these go unnoticed because they often have no symptoms. Undiagnosed and untreated chlamydia or gonorrhea can put women at increased risk of chronic pelvic pain, life threatening pregnancy complications, and increased chances of infertility.
During the month of April, think about any changes you might make in your life or within our communities to raise STD awareness, to reduce stigma, promote prevention, and improve access to care. If you are sexually active, talk to your healthcare provider about STI testing and which tests may be right for you. Make the appointment today.
Randy McKinney is the administrator of Bienville Family Clinic in Arcadia. He holds a master’s degree from Grambling State University (criminal justice) and from the University of North Texas (public administration), as well as 30 graduate hours in Adult Education from Northwestern State University. He previously served as a practice management consultant in the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospital’s Bureau of Primary Care and Rural Health.