SCG–Uh Oh Get the Penicillin!

By Candice

Pop Quiz! Of the almost 20 million new cases of STDs each year1, what percentage is from people under 25?

  1. 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

chlam 2014gon 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.

Prevention

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!

Sources

1 CDC, National Surveillance Report, 2014

Breaking Down BV: Bacterial Vaginosis

By Candice

Today, we have a special topic on Bacterial Vaginosis, also known as BV. Before we get into BV, we need to learn more about the umbrella it falls under, known as Vaginitis. Vaginitis or ‘inflammation of the vulva or vagina’ encompasses the variety of irritations that can happen to the vagina outside of STDs. Causes of vaginitis include:

  • yeast infection
  • bacterial vaginosis
  • trichomoniasis
  • allergies and irritants
  • lack of the hormone estrogen

And sometimes multiple factors are at play. When it comes to BV specifically, this is caused by an imbalance of the different bacteria that naturally inhabit the vagina. Causes of the imbalance can come from douching, engaging in vaginal sex with a new sex partner, or with having multiple partners. BV is the most common infection for those between the ages of 15-441, but the good news is it’s also one of the most treatable. While some folks might not display symptoms, doctors recommend looking out for greyish discharge, unusual odor (especially after sex), itching or pain while urinating. It’s especially important to make note of these signs if you’re pregnant as BV can affect premature delivery as well as birth weight2. Ignoring symptoms can also increase the risk for pelvic inflammatory disease and miscarriage. Knowing what your normal vaginal fluids are like also helps when it comes to detection of infections.

(Click to enlarge)

Talking with your doctor if you display symptoms leads to swifter treatment. Your medical provider will prescribe antibiotics or direct you to over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, which should be completed, even when symptoms may lessen or disappear. Additionally, treatment will reduce your risk for contracting other STDs such as chlamydia and gonorrhea – which is more likely when you have BV. Open communication with your partner about using barrier methods, like internal or external condoms also reduces the risk for BV. As always, if you are concerned, contact your local Planned Parenthood to get back on your way to a healthy, happy vagina!

1 CDC, Bacterial Vaginosis – CDC Fact Sheet, 2016
2 Ibid

Get Yourself Tested – Bringing it Closer to Home

By Candice

April marks national Get Yourself Tested (GYT) Month. This campaign began in 2009 as collaboration with American College Health Association, Kaiser Family Foundation, National Coalition of STD Directors, MTV, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America. GYT aims to reach our growing young adult population and bring awareness around knowing your HIV/STD status. Of the 20,000,000 new STD cases each year, half of them are from folks under 25 years old1 and most of them are not aware of their infection.

Why do you need to get yourself tested?

 gyt pic

“If I need to be tested, my doctor would automatically test me, right?”
“You can tell someone has an STD from looking.”
“I don’t have symptoms, so I don’t need to be tested.”

These are frequent comments that come up when people talk about the need to get tested – but unfortunately, none of these things are true. It’s impossible to tell if someone has an STD just from looking because the majority of STDs have no symptoms at all. And while your doctor is a great resource for information and health services, most doctors don’t automatically test for STDs so you have to make sure and ask.

Who Should Get Tested?

Everyone! The CDC recommends that every person get tested for HIV at least once2 and . Additional testing for other STDs should occur based on individual risk factors (ex: needle sharing from injections, assault, multiple sex partners, a partner with an STD) or exposure to body fluids from other people such as blood, breastmilk, vaginal secretions, and semen, which can carry infectious pathogens.

Kentucky3

  • Ranked 34th among 50 states in chlamydial infections (391.2 per 100,000 persons) and ranked 23rd among 50 states in gonorrheal infections (98.5 per 100,000 persons)
  • Reported rates of chlamydia among women (543.8 cases per 100,000) that were 2.4 times greater than those among men (231.2 cases per 100,000)

Indiana4

  • Ranked 24th among 50 states in chlamydial infections (428.7 per 100,000 persons) and ranked 16th among 50 states in gonorrheal infections (109.3 per 100,000 persons)
  • Reported rates of chlamydia among women (611.8 cases per 100,000) that were 2.6 times greater than those among men (239.5 cases per 100,000)

Where Can I get tested?

Clinics such as Planned Parenthood provide services including (but are not limited to) HIV/STD screenings, cancer screenings, vaccinations and family planning assistance. County health departments also serve as a resource for many Hoosiers and Kentuckians and offer additional services, such as the chronic disease care, substance abuse resources and the women, infants, and child (WIC) program.  Clinics and health departments have a variety of hours and days to and work with insurance plans to assure the best care is provided to accommodate as many patients as possible. To find your local STD testing center, visit GetTested.cdc.gov

1 CDC, Incidence, Prevalence, and Cost of Sexually Transmitted Infections in the United States, 2013
2CDC, STD & HIV Screening Recommendations, 2016
3CDC, Kentucky State Health Profile, 2015
4CDC, Indianapolis State Health Profile, 2015