The Alarming Rise of STI and STDs in the United States Reported cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the United States have been on the rise in the past two decades, and rates in the U.S. are among the highest in high-income countries globally. Approximately 1 in 5 people in the U.S. had an STI at any given day in 2018, according to a 2021 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Stigma Surrounding STDs “One of the root causes for this extraordinarily high prevalence and very high morbidity related to these diseases is because of stigma,” says Dr. Edward W. Hook III, an emeritus professor of medicine of infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Getting comfortable talking about sex and all that comes with it – the good, bad, and the ugly – is important to breaking down the stigma.
Understanding STIs: Definitions, Transmission, and Symptoms
What Are STDs and STIs? Although the terms sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and STIs are often used interchangeably, they don’t exactly mean the same thing. An STD refers to the actual disease state that develops due to infection, whereas an STI refers to a pathogen that enters the body and causes infection through sexual contact.
The Importance of Terminology: STI vs. STD “It’s less stigmatizing to call it STI rather than STD,” says Dr. Patricia Kissinger, a professor of epidemiology at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Some STIs can be transmitted from mother to child, and they can spread rarely through intimate physical contact and body fluid exchange.
Symptoms of STIs: What to Look For Symptoms of STI vary. They can range from completely asymptomatic to genital skin manifestation. Symptoms of the most common STIs may include redness, vesicles, secretion, burning during urination, fever, sore throat, and enlarged lymph nodes.
Types of STIs and STDs: A Closer Look
Common Types of STIs There are more than 30 different bacteria, viruses, and protozoans for which sexual transmission is the main mechanism of transmission. Common types of STIs include Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Herpes, HPV, HIV, Hepatitis A, B, and C.
Chlamydia: The Most Common Bacterial STI Chlamydia is the most common bacterial STI in the United States. Untreated chlamydia can lead to both short- and long-term health complications.
Gonorrhea: The Second Most Common STI In 2020, the CDC reported nearly 680,000 cases of gonorrhea in the U.S. Untreated gonorrhea can cause serious health problems.
Syphilis: A Genital Ulcerative Disease Syphilis is a genital ulcerative disease that can result in death if left untreated.
Herpes: Two Types and Common Symptoms Herpes is categorized into two types: genital herpes and oral herpes. Herpes is often asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV): A Major Cause of Cervical Cancer HPV is thought to be responsible for nearly all cases of cervical cancer. The vaccine has significantly reduced the prevalence of these infections.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV): A Virus Leading to AIDS HIV is a virus that attacks the body's immune system and can lead to AIDS if left untreated.
Hepatitis A, B, and C: Inflammation in the Liver Hepatitis is an inflammation in the liver caused by a virus. Hepatitis B and C are leading causes of liver cancer. Risks, Pregnancy, Testing, and Treatment
Risks of STIs: Long-term Consequences The importance of STIs lies largely in their long-term consequences, particularly because many of these infections are asymptomatic.
STIs and Pregnancy: The Importance of Testing Health experts encourage people to get a full STI evaluation before they conceive. Some STIs can cause complications like pneumonia, blindness, or deformities in the baby.
STI Testing: The Importance of Regular Screening Because most STIs are asymptomatic, it's important to get tested. Annual STI screening is vital if you’re sexually active.
STI Treatment Options: Bacterial and Viral STIs Bacterial STIs including gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis are treatable with antibiotics. Viral infections like herpes and HPV are not readily cured.
Prevention of STDs: Protecting Yourself
Prevention of STIs: Screening and Vaccination STI screening is an incredibly important measure to receive a diagnosis and proper treatment. Condoms are one of the most effective prevention methods, and some vaccines are available that can help minimize the risk of infection.
By understanding the different types of STIs, their symptoms, risks, and prevention methods, individuals can take proactive steps to protect their sexual health and well-being. Regular testing, proper treatment, and open communication about sexual health are key to combating the rise of STDs and STIs in the United States.
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