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STI Awareness Month

on Mar 29, 2013 | General STDs/STIs Sexual Health | 0 comments

20 million new sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the U.S. each and every year.

20 million…

ASHA recognizes each April as STI Awareness Month and an appropriate theme this year might be STIs By the Numbers.

Boy Howdy: In February the CDC released the latest figures on how many cases of STIs there are in the U.S., and how much it costs to treat them. I know what to expect each time these reports are released, yet still I gape at the page when I first see the stats, such as the 20 million figure above. CDC pegs the lifetime medical costs associated with these infections at $16 billion (Yes, billion with a “B”). About HALF of the new STIs each year occur in teens and young adults ages 15-24. The impact of STIs on men who have sex with men (MSM) and communities of color is also out of whack, way too high given the percentage of the population they represent.

As attention grabbing as all that might be, consider this: when each year’s new STIs are added to cases that already exist, we have about 110 million total STIs in this country.

Dizzy yet? Let’s take a breath and think about some take home points:

  • First, if STIs are something that happens to other people, well, we’re pretty much ALL other people. STIs are obviously common, and that’s true even among those with few partners
  • With one STI alone – the Human Papillomavirus (HPV)- experts believe the majority of sexually active people are infected at some point in their lives
  • Speaking of HPV: of the 20 million new STIs in the U.S. annually, 14 million of them are HPV infections! Effective HPV vaccines are on the market, yet fewer than half of young males and females for whom the shots are recommended have received them.
  • If you have an STI: you’re not damaged, broken, or bad. You’re human. You’re normal
  • Read that again: have an STI? Then you’re normal
  • Despite the fact most folks will have an STI at some point, it’s easy to think we aren’t at risk. See above: STIs don’t happen to others, they happen to us
  • We need to do a better job communicating with healthcare professionals, too. Just as their patients may not think of themselves as being at risk, so too can docs and nurses fail to make the connection that their patient population needs counseling and testing for STIs

So take the lead. If your healthcare professional doesn’t ask about your sexual history, bring it up. Remember that STIs often have no obvious symptoms, so get tested. If you need help finding a clinic, search for one at http://www.ashastd.org/std-sti/get-tested.html.

ASHA’s Talking to Your HCP: 10 Questions to Ask is a great place to start. But don’t stop the conversation there. Talk to your partner. Talk to your kids. Talk to yourself (well, not really but click the link anyway).

--Fred Wyand (aka Fredo)





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