If you thought sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) were a thing of the past, think again. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that three STDs: gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis, are at an all-time high in the U.S. In fact, Nevada is one of the top three states with the largest number of STD cases in the country. And the worst in the nation for syphilis infections. Bret Michael Bellard, MD, with Renown Medical Group shares his insight on this topic.
Awareness of STDs was high in the early 1990s during the AIDS epidemic. Since then, scientific breakthroughs in the treatment of AIDS and other STDs have given people a false sense of security. Now people aren’t as worried about STDs and may think that they’re not deadly. Although treatments for most STDs are available, recent statistics show they are still a serious threat to our health.
Why are STDs on the rise?
Some experts blame the popularity of hook-up apps like Grindr and Tinder for making it easier for people to have casual and sometimes unprotected sex.
In particular, half of all new STD cases are from the 15 – 24 year old age group. One in four sexually active adolescent females has an STD and STD rates among seniors are also increasing.
The CDC suggests that these factors are contributing to the overall increase in STDs:
- Drug use, poverty, stigma and unstable housing. All these factors can reduce access to prevention and care
- Decreased safe sex practices among vulnerable groups
- Cuts to STD programs at state and local levels
These conditions have created a perfect storm for a resurgence of STDs in both our community and the nation.
How are STDs passed from one person to another?
STDs are transmitted through any kind of sexual contact (including anal, oral and vaginal sex), sharing sex toys, or from the sharing of needles.
Why is it important for people to get tested for STDs?
Surprisingly, some people with STDs don’t show symptoms, meaning they may not even know they have an STD unless they get tested. Even if an STD shows no symptoms, the result of non-treatment can be serious. Bret Michael Bellard, MD, with Renown Medical Group, shares that it’s important for people to get tested for STDs because if left untreated, they can cause the following health problems:
- Loss of fertility
- Pregnancy complications
- Other health issues
Who should get tested and how often?
“The recommendations are that everyone from ages 13 to 64 should get tested at least once for HIV. All sexually active adults should also be tested for other STDs once a year, and all pregnant women should be tested at the start of their pregnancy,” says Dr. Bellard. Some STDs, like syphilis, can be passed from mother to baby, so it’s important for women to get tested as soon as they know they’re pregnant.
Where can people get STD testing?
Dr. Bellard recommends going to your primary care provider for testing. “They can also give advice on prevention and other health topics.” If you don’t have a primary care provider, this is a great reason to get established with one. Women with an established OB/GYN can have STD testing done at the same time as their annual pelvic exam.
Are there different types of STD tests?
Yes, there are two main types of STD tests. Dr. Bellard explains, “Testing for gonorrhea and chlamydia is easily done with just a urine sample. HIV, syphilis and hepatitis are tested with a blood sample.” Your primary care provider can help you determine which tests are best for you.
On the positive side, STDs are preventable. Practicing safe sex and getting tested routinely are your best defenses against all types of STDs.
How long has it been since you were last tested for STDs? If you’re sexually active and have never been tested, or it’s been over a year, it’s time to get tested.