STI testing: when and where to get tested

Rates of many sexually transmitted infections continued to rise in first year of pandemic, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says said Tuesday in a statement posted on its website. While overall 2.4 million infections were recorded in 2020, compared to a record 2.6 million in 2019, diagnosed cases of certain sexually transmitted diseases have increased.

Cases of congenital syphilis, which occur in newborns who contract the disease from their mothers, have reached the highest number in 26 years, rising 235% since 2016. Rates of primary and secondary syphilis have increased by 7 % from 2019 to 2020; cases of gonorrhea increased by 10% over the same period.

People aged 15 to 24 had about half of reported infections in 2020. Racial and ethnic minority groups, as well as gay and bisexual men, also experienced disproportionately higher rates of illness.

CDC data also showed that chlamydia rates fell by 13%, although the agency warned that many cases of the disease are asymptomatic and that reductions in routine screening during the pandemic likely contributed to this. decrease.

“This is the latest evidence of an unrecognized epidemic in America,” said David C. Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors. “The numbers are down slightly due to pandemic disruptions to testing and care, make no mistake. These cases are out of control.

Rates of sexually transmitted infections have increased dramatically over the past decade. Infections have increased during the pandemic due to a lack of accessible testing, shortages of test kits and labs, and clinic closures, said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the National Center for HIV Prevention, viral hepatitis, STDs and tuberculosis.

Here’s what to know about how to prevent and treat sexually transmitted infections.

the The CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 be tested for HIV at least once The agency recommends that men who have sex with men be tested for HIV at least once a year.

The agency urges sexually active women under the age of 25 or who have new or multiple sexual partners to take annual tests for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Sexually active gay and bisexual men should be tested for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea at least once a year, or every three to six months if they have multiple sexual partners.

According to agency guidelines, pregnant women should also get tested for syphilis, HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C early in pregnancy.

Some experts recommend more frequent testing. The National Coalition of STD Directors recommends getting tested once a quarter if you have multiple sex partners.

There is a directory of clinics offering free or low-cost testing at

Some states offer home testing options through health department websites, but beware of private home testing options, said Dr. Gale Burstein, a pediatrician in Buffalo who contributed to CDC health guidelines. sex for teens. “There have been studies that show that some labs that offer home testing are really not credible labs,” she said.

Family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood offer both in-person and remote options for STI testing. Some urgent care centers also have testing capabilities.

Regular condom use can be the first line of defense against sexually transmitted infections. Condoms are available for oral sex as well as vaginal intercourse, and the Food and Drug Administration recently approved the first condom for anal sex.

Sexual health experts recommend people get tested before having sex with a new partner, if possible, in addition to routine STI screenings. If that’s not possible, people should consider getting tested soon after having sex with someone new.

“If you’re having an encounter and you’re concerned about it, getting tested two to four weeks later is the best thing to do,” said Dr. Michael Angarone, an infectious disease physician at Northwestern Medicine.

Pre-exposure prophylaxisor PrEP, is now recommended for anyone at risk of contracting HIV, he said, which is not limited to men who have sex with men and can include people who have multiple sex partners.

Up to 85% of STIs can be asymptomatic, which is why routine screening is crucial, said Dr. Monica Woll Rosen, obstetrician at the University of Michigan Medical School. But certain symptoms can indicate an infection, she said, including abnormal discharge, painful intercourse, spotting outside of the menstrual cycle and bumps or sores surrounding the genitals.

People with syphilis can develop rashes on their body and hands, said Dr. Oluwatosin Goje, an obstetrician and infectious disease specialist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. They may also develop ulcers on their genitals, which may appear as a scratch or a bump.

If left untreated, even asymptomatic gonorrhea and chlamydia can cause inflammation of the pelvis and lead to potential scarring in the fallopian tubes and an increased risk of infertility, ectopic pregnancies and chronic pelvic pain, a she added.

Most STIs are treatable, especially if caught early. Medications are available for gonorrhea, chlamydia, and hepatitis B and C. Antiviral therapies are available to help patients manage HIV, although the disease cannot be cured.

There is also no cure for herpes, which people can easily pass on even if they don’t have sores. But there is prophylactics and antivirals which reduce the duration of herpes outbreaks and reduce the risk of transmission of the virus.

Syphilis can be treated with penicillin, and there are alternative drugs for allergy sufferers. “It’s very easy to treat,” Dr. Goje said. “We just need to have an early diagnosis.”

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