Hooray! April is STD Awareness Month, an annual observance to raise awareness about sexually transmitted diseases’ (STDs) impact on our health and the importance of individuals discussing sexual health with their health-care providers (and partners).  STDs are a major public health issue:

  • CDC estimates that there are approximately 19 million new cases of STDs each year in the United States: almost half of which spring up among young people ages 15 to 24.
  • STDs have an economic impact: direct medical costs associated with STDs in the United States are estimated at $16.4 billion annually.

In 2008, there were more than 1.5 million total cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea reported to CDC—making them the two most commonly reported infectious diseases in the United States.

  • While serious health threats from STDs cross racial and ethnic lines, disparities persist at too high a level.
    • African Americans represent 12 percent of the U.S. population yet account for almost half of all reported chlamydia and syphilis cases and more than 70 percent of all reported gonorrhea cases.
    • New CDC data shows that women are more likely to be infected with HSV-2 (also known as herpes) than men. The most affected group is black women.
    • Most STDs have been associated with increased risk of HIV transmission, with African Americans accounting for almost half of new HIV infections.

Untreated STDs can lead to serious long-term health consequences, especially for adolescent girls and young women. The CDC estimates that undiagnosed and untreated STDs cause at least 24,000 women in the United States each year to become infertile. Vaccines offer protection against two common sexually transmitted infections: Hepatitis B and Human Papillomavirus (HPV). These vaccines can prevent important health problems, such as liver disease and cervical cancer. To reduce the impact of STDs, it is important to increase knowledge about sexually transmitted infections and make STD testing a part of routine medical care. Because many STDs have no symptoms, those at risk need to get tested and find out if they are infected. Source: Scholes, D., Stergachis A, Heidrich FE, Andrilla H, Holmes KK, Stamm WE. Prevention of pelvic inflammatory disease by screening for cervical chlamydial infection. N Engl J Med 1996; 34(21): 1362-66.