Effective prevention strategies and regular testing are key in lowering STD rates
April is Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Awareness Month. The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) joins the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in bringing attention to this important public health issue.
Nearly 20 million new sexually transmitted infections occur in the United States every year. These infections cost the American healthcare system nearly $16 billion in direct medical costs alone, according to the CDC. America’s youth shoulder a substantial burden of many of these infections. CDC estimates that half of all new STDs in the country occur among young men and women aged 15 to 24 years.
“The STD burden in Iowa mirrors that of our nation as a whole,” said George Walton, the STD program manager with IDPH’s Bureau of HIV, STD, and Hepatitis. Walton explained adolescents and young adults account for 70 percent of the state’s 11,000 chlamydia cases and 55 percent of Iowa’s 1,500 gonorrhea cases.
Iowa has experienced significant changes in some STDs recently. During the past two years, cases of infectious syphilis have increased exponentially in Iowa. Since 2011, cases of infectious syphilis have risen 450 percent - growing from 31 cases in 2011 to 170 in 2013. Gay men and other men who have sex with men are the most affected, accounting for approximately 85 percent of cases.
The high incidence of STDs in the general population suggests that many Iowans are at risk of exposure to STDs, underscoring the need for prevention. Reducing the number of sexual partners and consistent and correct condom use are effective prevention strategies. Safe, effective vaccines are also available to prevent hepatitis B and some types of the human papillomavirus (HPV).
Regular testing, even when symptoms are not present, is important because some STDs have few outward signs (e.g., chlamydia). Early detection and treatment are essential in protecting the health of those infected by preventing serious, long-term consequences and the health of others by preventing transmission.
For more information on STD Awareness Month, please visit CDC’s web page at http://www.cdc.gov/std/sam/.
Information on testing locations can be found at http://hivtest.cdc.gov/STDTesting.aspx.
For more information on Iowa’s Bureau of HIV, STD and Hepatitis, visit http://idph.state.ia.us/HivStdHep/Default.aspx