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Let’s Talk: STD Awareness

By Scott Breidbart, MD, Chief Clinical Officer, EmblemHealth

Many Americans are hesitant to discuss sexual health issues and diseases. As health professionals, we are responsible for making patients and members comfortable talking about their sexual activity. We must also give them the information they need about the risks, prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Data released in 2015 states that the rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis — the three most common sexually transmitted diseases — have increased for the first time since 2006. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 20 million new, preventable STD infections occur each year in the U.S., and most of these infections can be managed if not cured with proper treatment.

Young adults between the ages of 15 to 24 and men who have sex with other men are most at risk for infection. For STD Awareness month, the CDC released a new campaign — Talk, Test and Treat — to encourage open communication and reduce the incidence of STDs in America.

Talk to your partner and find out if they’ve been tested, and know their sexual history. I also encourage you to talk to your health care provider, understand what you may be at risk for and the necessary precautions you can take to prevent any STDs. Condoms, mutual monogamy, abstinence and vaccinations are effective ways to prevent and ensure that you’re properly protected.

During your annual physical, speak with your doctor to see what STD tests are right for you. The U.S. Preventive Task Force and the CDC have various testing guidelines based on age, gender and lifestyle. If you are uncomfortable speaking with your doctor about STDs, there are many clinics in the community that provide free or low-cost confidential testing. If you are diagnosed with an STD, there are effective treatment options — see the CDC’s treatment page for more information.

Collectively, health professionals must take a collaborative and multifaceted approach to prevent STDs in our community. We must all continue educational, open conversations with our children, patients and community partners, so that STDs become less alarming and more manageable.

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To learn more about STD prevention visit the CDC and if you’re interested in finding an STD testing center near you, enter your ZIP code below.