Hearing bad news from a doctor regarding the contraction of a sexually transmitted disease (STD) is likely one of the biggest nightmares for many sexually active young people. Having one labels an individual as “other” and decreases their likelihood of finding new partners. Furthermore, there are numerous serious health implications and necessary treatments to consider with any STD. Yet, surprisingly, this is a risk that many sexually active people fail to adequately protect themselves against.
In fact, STDs remain a highly taboo part of American life. Communicating with potential partners is often awkward; getting information from friends is difficult; and getting treated can be embarrassing. All of this adds up to a serious struggle to protect against and get help for STDs, which has led to skyrocketing rates of infection in the United States.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. is experiencing a substantial increase in STDs for the fourth year in a row. As infections continue to spread at an alarming rate, many are wondering how the government will intervene. Furthermore, many question whether or not any intervention will be successful in fostering conversations that can lead to a decline in contraction rates.
But just how prevalent is the rise in STDs in the United States? Statistics suggest that 1 in 2 sexually active people will contract an STDbefore the age of 25 and that half of all Americans will have an STD in their lifetime, whether or not they are diagnosed. The United States has the highest STD infection rate in the entire industrialized world.
Recent reporting indicates that many STDs that we have long thought under control are making a substantial comeback. For instance, between 2013 and 2017, the number of syphilis cases has doubled, gonorrhea cases have increased by 67 percent, and chlamydia cases have increased by 76 percent. If left untreated, these diseases can have profound impacts, including infertility, stillbirths in infants, and increased risk of HIV.
Even more concerning is the fear many doctors have that some STDs are becoming immune to standard forms of treatment. For example, in 2017 lab tests found that approximately 4 percent of gonorrhea samples are resistant to the antibiotic azithromycin. This is up from approximately 1 percent in 2013.
Turning the Tide
Many professionals blame the significant drops in government funding over the past 15 years for the rise in STD rates across the nation. This funding typically goes toward both outreach and education about STDs and treatments for those diagnosed. Populations that are at a higher risk for contracting STDs are particularly underserved.
Experts cite the gap in STD education funding as a particularly damaging blow. This is because much of the population does not experience early warning symptoms of an STD and doesn’t know when treatment is necessary. Because they are not receiving treatment, many will continue to spread the disease to other sexual partners.
In order to more fully combat the rise in STDs across the U.S., many nonprofits are calling for Congress to set aside money specifically for STD crisis management, which includes funding for STD education, treatment, and prevention. It is also critical for organizations to work towards breaking down taboos related to talking about STDs both with medical professionals and sexual partners.
There are certainly many reasons for the unprecedented rise in STD rates in the U.S. Many believe it can be blamed upon a decrease in funding, while others blame the rise in technology that facilitates casual sexual encounters. Still, others have linked failure to get tested to traumatic sexual experiences.
Regardless of where the blame falls, it is clear that the responsibility to get educated and tested falls squarely upon the individual person. The CDC recommends that sexually active people, especially those under the age of 25, get tested for STDs on an annual basis. Luckily, thanks to the efforts of many organizations, getting tested is now easier than ever.
Testing can take place at your local doctor’s office, a community health clinic, the health department, or a Planned Parenthood health center. Oftentimes testing is completely free, but this can vary based upon where you choose to be examined. After testing, it is critical to make sure you fully understand the implications of your results and communicate them with those that need to know, particularly if they are also at risk.
The steep rise in STD rates in the United States is one of serious concern, as these diseases carry serious health consequences with them. Experts worry about taboos associated with STDs that can lead to a failure to care for them properly, especially in high-risk communities. Although there are certainly many causes for the rise in STDs, it falls upon the individual to take charge of their health and get tested.
Author: Sam Bowman