About STD Awareness Month: April is National STD Awareness Month in Minnesota
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) encourages all Minnesotans to learn about sexually transmitted diseases/infections (STDs/STIs), one of the state’s most persistent health problems, during the observance of National STD Awareness Month. Public awareness and knowledge are critically low around the country and STDs/STIs remain at epidemic levels.
National STD Awareness Month is a national health observance sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help break the silence and alert everyone to the growing crisis of STDs/STIs in America.
The American Social Health Association (ASHA) provides estimates on the number of STDs/STIs occurring in the U.S.:
- Over one in two Americans will contract an STD/STI at some point in their lifetimes
- Nearly 20 million estimated new STDs/STIs occur each year in the U.S. per CDC
- One in two sexually active persons will contract an STD/STI by age 25
- One in four teens contract an STD/STI each year
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) or genital warts is the most common
- STD/STI in the U.S. and is the leading cause of cervical cancer
- An estimated one in five Americans (50 million) have genital herpes; and, about 776,000 new infections occur each year
- Each year, there are almost 3 million new cases of chlamydia
- Nearly $16 billion is the total estimated direct cost of STDs/STIs annually
The MDH mainly monitors case reports of STDs/STIs that are required, by law, to be reported by physicians and laboratories in Minnesota: chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, chancroid, hepatitis, and HIV. Other common STDs/STIs, such as genital herpes and genital warts, are not required to be reported in Minnesota. However, there are periodic studies that the MDH performs that help monitor the non-reportable STDs/STIs.
- STD Statistics and Reports
Graphs, tables and text that describe trends in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in Minnesota.
The bad news about STDs
Undiagnosed and untreated STDs/STIs can lead to lifelong health problems, even death. STDs/STIs are linked to or can cause:
- Damage to joints, heart, reproductive organs, and the brain
- Genital (penile in males or cervical in women) or anal cancers in both men and women
- Increased risk of tubal pregnancies which can be fatal
- Infertility (unable to reproduce) in both men and women
- Liver problems and cancer
- Blindness, deafness, birth defects, early delivery or stillborns in infants during pregnancy or childbirth
- Increased risk of transmitting or getting HIV by 3 times compared to someone without an STD/STI
Many STDs/STIs have no symptoms or they are too minor to see. Many people are relying on symptoms to appear before they get concerned. The STDs/STIs can persist unless detected or treated, even though the symptoms may go away. The only way to know if an STD/STI is present is to get tested. There is no lifelong immunity once a person has had an STD/STI or gets treated. A person can get infected again and again through unprotected sex.
The good news about STDs/STIs
- STDs/STIs are largely preventable and most are curable or can be controlled to prevent complications.
Here are some key points:
- The most reliable way to avoid an STD/STI is to abstain from sex or to be in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner.
- Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, are highly effective in preventing transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. In addition, correct and consistent condom use of latex condoms can reduce the risk of other STDs/STIs.
- There are vaccines available to prevent hepatitis A or hepatitis B infections. There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C.
- There are two new vaccines for young women and girls (Gardasil® and Cervarix®) that protect against infection by certain strains of the genital wart virus associated with cervical cancer.
- STD/STI testing is available throughout Minnesota at medical clinics, physician offices, family planning clinics, health maintenance organizations and selected community-based organizations.
- Getting Tested for STDs
- Some STD/STI screening tests (gonorrhea and chlamydia) are simple and only require a urine specimen.
- The Minnesota Chlamydia Partnership is an independent coalition of health providers and citizens to provide strategies and resources to reduce chlamydia rates in Minnesota.
- There is a statewide, toll-free STD hotline in Minnesota that can provide information about STDs/STIs and provide locations of sites that provide STD testing services:
- 1-800-78-FACTS voice/TTY (statewide) or 651-645-9360 (metro area)
- Text ASKMN to 66746
- Visit the MN Family Planning and STD hotline website
Minnesota’s response to reducing STD/STI occurrence
- MDH STD/HIV/TB Section currently funds approximately 20 community-based programs to deliver HIV related outreach, testing, individual counseling, support groups, pharmacy syringe access and disposal, and educational services to targeted at-risk populations.
- The MDH Partner Services Program provides follow-up to sexual partners of HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis infected persons so they can receive treatment to help prevent further spread and re-infection of the initial patient.
- Since 2002, Syphilis prevention and awareness efforts have been completed in each year.
- When partners are unable or unwilling to get to a clinic physicians may dispense prescriptions or medications for partners through their patients infected with chlamydia or gonorrhea using Expedited Partner Therapy (EPT).