Pop Quiz! Of the almost 20 million new cases of STDs each year1, what percentage is from people under 25?
- a) 80% b) 50% c) 33%
If you guessed C (50%), you are correct! When you compare folks 15-24 years old with the rest of the country, they have the highest risk for getting STDs AND not being treated. When you do the math that’s almost 10 million cases each year, with many who don’t even know it! Today’s focus is on some of the most common, yet treatable STDs: Syphilis, Chlamydia and Gonorrhea (shortened to SCG for this post). Let’s talk about why people don’t get tested, what happens during testing and treatment, and how to prevent yourself from getting these STDs.
Gonorrhea in USA, 2014 Chlamydia in USA, 2014
From the CDC 2014 National Data for Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis
Barriers to Treatment: Time is Money
Think about your average workday. You wake up, make your breakfast, commute to work, spend 8-9 hours on the clock, commute home, eat, and sleep. Rinse and repeat. For many, our daily work schedules make it hard to set up appointments for dentists, therapists, and – most important to our conversation—healthcare providers. Flexible hours, openings on weekend, and transport access are all important factors that determine if people will make it in to their health center or not.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), insurance companies are reducing the out-of-pocket costs for many patients. Screenings for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are all available and may be fully covered, based on your insurance plan. If you don’t have an insurance plan that covers STD screenings, many public health agencies offer low or no-cost screenings.
Testing and Treatment: What Actually Happens?
Chlamydia and Gonorrhea: A doctor or nurse can test for these with a urine sample. Sometimes they might take a sample from the vagina or penis. If your test comes back positive, a doctor will give you antibiotics and information for treatment and give advice on talking with your current or recent sex partners.
Syphilis: Some folks might have rapid responses to a syphilis infection, but not everyone. The longer syphilis goes undiagnosed, the more damage it can have on your body, especially if you’re pregnant. A doctor or nurse can test for this with a blood, body fluid, or tissue sample test. Once a case is confirmed, treatment (penicillin) begins, but it doesn’t undo damage already done, so it’s important to get treated as early as possible.
It can be scary to think about getting tested but the process is pretty simple once you break it down and luckily, if you test positive for SCG, they can all be cured with antibiotics. Women under 25 should get tested once a year and women over the age of 25 should get tested with each new sex partner or if you have more than one partner. Men (gay, bisexual, and heterosexual) should also get tested for SCG annually, especially if they have unprotected sex, multiple new partners, or both.
The best way to avoid a sexually transmitted infection is through prevention! Using condoms and dental dams during vaginal, anal, or oral sex reduces the risk of getting STDs or passing them to your partner(s). Having frank discussions with your partners, friends, and other loved ones increases the likelihood that people will take care of their own health. And as always, your local Planned Parenthood health center and education teams are here to answer your questions and concerns!
1 CDC, National Surveillance Report, 2014