Few people like to discuss them. And some even try to hide their symptoms from others. But the reality is that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) need to be talked about. The key to controlling the spread of STDs is regular testing combined with effective treatment.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the total combined cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis reported in 2015 reached a record high. While these conditions are curable with antibiotics, most cases go undiagnosed and untreated. One reason for this may be the recent budget cuts in state and local STD-related health programs. With fewer clinics and programs available, patients have reduced access to STD testing and treatment services.
Unfortunately, patients with untreated STDs have an increased risk of developing chronic pain, infertility and HIV.
STDs and Pregnancy
STDs are especially dangerous to an unborn child. If left untreated, congenital syphilis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, blindness or stroke. According to the CDC, every pregnant woman should be tested for syphilis to protect the health of the fetus.
The CDC also recommends that women get tested for HIV during pregnancy planning or soon after conception. The sooner an HIV-positive mother begins treatment with a combination of HIV medicines known as antiretroviral therapy (ART), the greater her chances are of preventing the transmission of HIV to her baby.
Ways to Prevent and Control STDs
To lower your risk of contracting an STD, take the following steps:
- Talk openly about STDs. Before beginning a sexual relationship, talk about your sexual health history. This will promote honesty, trust and respect in the relationship.
- Avoid sexual contact with anyone showing symptoms. Beware of genital sores, a rash or discharge. However, some STDs don’t manifest any visible symptoms.
- Get tested regularly. The CDC recommends that most sexually active adults get screened for STDs at least once per year. When beginning a new relationship, request that your partner gets tested before having sex. Pregnant women should also be tested for STDs that may affect the fetus.
- Use barriers such as condoms. Using barriers correctly and consistently during sexual activity will maximize your level of STD protection.
- Practice mutual monogamy if you are sexually active. Only have sex with your committed partner after you’ve both been tested and cleared for STDs. Sexual activity with multiple partners increases your risk of contracting an STD.
- Avoid alcohol and recreational drug use. These can lower your inhibitions and encourage risky sexual behavior.
- American Sexual Health Association
To learn more about STD prevention and testing, call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com.