I know this is a scary and well, uncomfortable subject, but let’s talk anyway. Ask any health professional in the trenches, they’d tell you we need to have a public conversation about sexually transmitted disease (STD).
STDs may seem like a highly personal, impolite, in-your-face subject, especially with the social stigma that surrounds it, but the truth is they’re really common.
Every year nearly 20 million new STDs — sometimes called venereal disease or sexually transmitted infections (STIs) — occur in the United States.
In fact, you might be shocked to learn the United States has the highest STD rates in the industrialized world, according to the National Prevention Information Network.
Roughly half of all new cases are in teens and young adults, ages 15-24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data.
This age group accounts for 75 percent of all reported gonorrhea infection rates, yet account for only 25 percent of the sexually experienced population.
Teen girls ages 15 to 19 and 20 to 24-year-old men have the highest reported cases of chlamydia too, while 20 to 24-year-old women and men have the highest reported syphilis rates . Syphilis rates have been significantly increasing since 2002, the CDC reports.
The CDC estimates there are more than 110 million new and existing STIs among U.S. men and women. STDs cost the U.S. health care system $17 billion every year — and cost individuals even more in immediate and life-long health consequences. STDs can even devastate whole communities.
The scariest thing about STDs might well be that most people don’t know they have them. Not all STDs have outward signs or make you feel sick, so you might pass them along to your sexual partner or partners unknowingly — and they might pass them to you.
When it comes to STDs, what you don’t know can hurt you. Not talking about STDs definitely won’t make them go away.
But there's good news. Getting informed and taking action can prevent most STDs from happening in the first place.