Every year sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, cost the US health care system $17 billion—and cost individuals even more in immediate and long-term health consequences.
April is STD Awareness month, an annual observance to call attention to the impact of STDs and promote STD testing across the United States.
Regardless of race or gender, data show that sexually active teens and young adults are at an increased risk for STDs when compared to older adults.
- Every year in the United States, there are an estimated 19 million new infections.
- Estimates suggest that even though young people represent only 25% of the sexually experienced population, nearly half of all STD cases occur in young people aged 15 to 24.
The good news is that most STDs are treatable, and many are curable – early detection through testing is key. Yet, stigma, inconsistent or incorrect condom use, access to health care, and a combination of other factors contribute to high rates of STDs among teens and young adults.
Primary care physicians, pediatricians, and other health care providers play an important role in ensuring young people receive correct information and comprehensive health care. Providers and the information they share are respected by patients. Research shows that adolescent patients feel primary care settings are an appropriate place to discuss sexual health and would like their providers to initiate such discussions. In a recent study of college students, almost half of those surveyed preferred to receive sexual health information from their provider who initiates the conversation and only 25% preferred to receive this type of information from the Internet. Patients are most comfortable with providers who are "knowledgeable about sexual concerns" (75%) and "seem comfortable addressing sexual concerns" (68%).
What can providers do to help adolescents and young people avoid STDs?
- Encourage STD testing among young people. Of the nearly 16 million sexually active women aged 15 to 25 in the United States, only 38 percent report being tested within the past year for chlamydia. This means more than 9 million young sexually active women were not screened as CDC recommends.
- Adhere to screening recommendations. CDC recommends annual screening for chlamydia for all sexually active women aged 25 and under.
- Build and maintain a culture of privacy and confidentiality for adolescent patients. Young males especially may be reluctant to enter health care because of stigma and concerns with confidentiality and privacy.
- Ensure a sexual history is taken. A sexual history should be discussed during a patient's first visit, during routine preventive exams, and when there are signs or symptoms of STDs. Providers should discuss the 5 "Ps" with their patients: partners, practices, protection from STDs, past history of STDs, and prevention of pregnancy.
For more information please visit http://www.cdc.gov/Features/STDAwareness/.
Click here to watch Dr Burkman present the most recent CDC statistics on STDs and provide expert management strategies for infection screening.