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    STDs on the Rise

    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | October 27th, 2019

    STDs on the Rise

    When my sister first met her fiancé and told me that she thinks this one is for keeps, the first thing that came out of my mouth was,

     “Before you do anything make sure he gets screened for STIs.”

    She then responded, “Really, that is the first thing out of your mouth; you couldn’t first say that you are happy for me”.

    I responded, “I am sorry, I am a gynecologist. I am happy for you but I still need him tested.”

    It is the first comment I make to anyone entering into a new relationship. I believe both parties should be tested before they enter a relationship. Everyone should know their status. I knew my husband’s and he knew mine before we were married.

    Earlier this month, the CDC announced that STDs Continue to Rise in the US and that there is a growing threat of newborn deaths from syphilis. From 2017 to 2018, there were increases in the three most commonly reported STDs:

    • There were more than 115,000 syphilis cases.
      • The number of primary and secondary syphilis cases – the most infectious stages of syphilis – increased 14 percent to more than 35,000 cases, the highest number since 1991.
      • Among newborns, syphilis cases increased 40 percent to more than 1.300 cases.                              
    • Gonorrhea increased 5 percent to more than 580,000 cases – also the highest number reported since 1991.
    • Chlamydia increased 3 percent to more than 1.7 million cases – the most ever reported to CDC.

    Why is this happening? The CDC states that there are multiple factors:

    • Drug use, poverty, stigma, and unstable housing, which can reduce access to STD prevention and care.
    • Decreased condom use among vulnerable groups, including young people and gay and bisexual men.
    • Cuts to STD programs at the state and local level – in recent years, more than half of local programs have experienced budget cuts, resulting in clinic closures, reduced screening, staff loss, and reduced patient follow-p and linkage to care services.

    What can you do?

    1. Periodically get screened for the most common sexually transmitted infections – chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV, hepatitis B and C. Remember you may not have symptoms to have the disease.
    2. If you are pregnant, you might need to be screened for syphilis at least three times during your pregnancy.
    3. If your partner tells you that he has tested positive for a sexually transmitted infection while with you, get treated immediately.
    4. Before becoming intimate in a relationship, you and your partner should get tested for the common STIs in your community.
    5. If your partner has herpes and you do not, there is an antiviral medication that your partner can take to reduce your risk of contracting herpes.
    6. If you are having sex with a person with HIV, there is a medication that you can take to reduce your risk of getting HIV.
    7. No sex in the dark until you have seen what is going into you. If you notice any cuts or discharge, hold off on sex until your partner is tested.
    8. Do not assume that when you are getting a pelvic exam, you are being screened for STIs; ask what tests are being performed.
    9. When taking medication for treatment of a sexually transmitted infection, take all the medication as directed. Do not have sex until you and your partner are treated.
    10. Condoms may not eliminate the risk of contracting an STI, but they are the best thing we have. USE CONDOMS to reduce your risk getting a sexually transmitted infection.

    If you do not have insurance or cannot see your physician, go to your local health department to get tested and treated.

    CDC fact sheet

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    The book discusses common gynecological and women’s health issues in a series of witty and entertaining letters. These letters, all educational, offer suggestions on what approaches to take in tackling the medical problems that typically bring women to an ob/gynecologist. The letters are spiced with art, a poem and quotes. Although its emphasis is on gynecology and women’s health, it touches on some other medical issues that make women visit their doctors.

    The second half of the book briefly discusses the most common gynecological conditions and also provides an overview of sexually transmitted infections. A list of annotated websites dealing with the different topics in the book is provided for the reader who wants to pursue each subject in depth.




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