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INDIANAPOLIS—Nearly 20 million new sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) occur in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), costing Americans $16 billion. April is National STD Awareness Month and the Indiana State Department of Health encourages Hoosiers to discuss prevention and know the risks.
STD Awareness Month provides an opportunity for individuals, doctors, and community-based organizations to discuss prevention and testing for STDs, especially when it comes to Indiana’s youth. Half of all new sexually transmitted infections that occur each year are among youths.
“Education and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases is a high priority for Indiana,” said State Health Commissioner William VanNess, M.D. “STDs are responsible for several health problems like infertility and low birth weight. Testing and treatment are key, but prevention is best. I encourage parents and health care providers to have the conversation about prevalence and prevention now.”
Sexually transmitted diseases can be spread through vaginal, anal and oral sex. Having an STD can make you more likely to get HIV. Sexually-transmitted diseases can be passed to the baby before, during or after birth. An STD like syphilis can cross the placenta and infect the baby. Pregnant women with an STD could experience:
· premature labor or rupture of the membranes
· Low birth weight
· Preterm birth
Consistent and correct use of male latex condoms can reduce the risk of STD transmission.
In Indiana, Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are of particular concern. Chlamydia is the most frequently reported bacterial STD in Indiana and the United States. It is most often found in the 15-24 year old population, with 1-in-50 Indiana residents ages 15-19 infected. Most people affected with Chlamydia do not have symptoms. In 2011, there were 27,801 cases of Chlamydia reported in Indiana.
Gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported bacterial STD in Indiana and the United States, and is most often found in 15-24 year old population. In 2011, there were 6,569 cases of gonorrhea reported in Indiana and 1-in-250 Indiana residents ages 15-19 were infected. The complications of untreated Chlamydia and gonorrhea include pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility and ectopic pregnancy.
Syphilis can cause long term complications if not adequately treated and often symptoms may not been seen in the primary stage. Syphilis must be diagnosed through a blood test. In 2011, there were 173 cases of primary and secondary syphilis reported in Indiana, and 9-in-100,000 Indiana residents ages 20-24 have syphilis.
Most STDs can be treated however there are a variety of methods to prevent STDs. Effective ways to protect yourself and your partner from STD risk include abstinence, mutual monogamy with an uninfected partner, using latex condoms and vaccination, especially against hepatitis B and Human Papillomavirus (HPV).
Knowing your STD status is a critical step to stopping STD transmission. If you know you are infected you can take steps to protect yourself and your partners.
To learn more about STD Awareness Month, visit the Indiana State Department of Health at www.StateHealth.in.gov or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at http://www.cdc.gov/std/sam/default.htm.
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