Did you know that the rise of sexually transmitted infections have been on the rise in both men in women in the United States? The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis are the three most common STIs and that these infection represent a growing threat.(1) Although all of these STIs are currently treatable with antibiotics, in most cases they may still cause serious reproductive issues such as infertility, stillbirth, and neonatal mortality.(2)
Gonorrhea has to be one of the most intelligent STIs ever as it becomes more rapidly resistant to antibiotic treatment making it harder to treat. Yes, gonorrhea actually adapts to survive in our systems! 😫 Gonorrhea is now most effectively treated by combination therapy as it is now resistant to at least 3 previous classes of antibiotics.(3)
As with all infections, prompt treatment is recommended but frequently some STIs can go undetected. Asymptomatic chlamydia infections are common causing many fertility complications in young women.(4) Unlike gonorrhea the rise in chlamydia infections are not associated with antibiotic drug resistance but because of an increased transmission of infection. Oh... and rectal chlamydia is a thing! Rectal chlamydia is harder to treat because of reduced drug penetration with failure rates of up to 22% being reported.(5)
Untreated syphilis can lead to significant complications that can affect the bodily organs including the brain.(6) The US is seeing some historically high rates of syphilis infection but much like chlamydia, the increase of infection is not a result of drug resistance and is still very much susceptible to first line penicillin.
Now that we've discussed the rise in the top 3 reported STIs, let's not forget about the STIs that are not required to be reported to the CDC such as the ever so common herpes simplex virus (HSV) and the human papilloma virus (HPV) because they might not cause noticeable symptoms.
About 1 in 6 people have genital herpes including 25% of women and 20% of men. More than 85% of people in the US have HSV and don't know it. That's about 48 million Americans who are unaware that they have genital herpes according to the CDC. 60% of infected women have never had any symptoms or an outbreak. Oral herpes are just as common as well with 50-80% of Americans having the disease.(7)
Transmission rates of this disease are so high because most are simply unaware that they have it. Unfortunately, most doctors do not include herpes in the standard STD test unless specifically requested. Even if you tell your doctor to test you for "everything" it's still very likely that they've been testing you for everything EXCEPT HSV. Make sure that you make this specific request at your next annual checkup as you could could very well be in that 85% of people who are completely unaware.
Even if you have contracted any of these STIs, couple's can still have very active and healthy sex lives. Use condoms properly, GET TESTED regularly, and treat all infections immediately! Best Kept Secret always promotes fun but most importantly SAFE sex.
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1. CDC.2016 STD surveillance report.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/2017/2016STD-Surveillance-Report.html. Updated October 20, 2017.
2. Tucker JD, Bien CH, Peeling RW. Point-of-care testing for sexually transmitted infections: recent advances and implications for disease control. Curr Opin Infect Dis. 2013,26(1):73-79
3. WI T, Lahra MM, Ndowa F, et al. antimirobia; resistance in Neisseria gonorhea: global surveillance and a call for international collaborative action. PLoS med. 2017, 14(7)
4. Chlamydial infections in adolescents and adults. CDC website. cdc.gov/std/tg2015/chlamydia.htm. Updated June 4, 2015.
5. Jaishankar D, Shukla D. Genital herpes: insights into sexually transmitted infectious disease. Microb Cell. 2016; 3(9):430-450
6. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). CDC website. cdc.gov/std/syphilis/default.htm
7. CDC website. https://www.cdc.gov/std/stats17/other.htm#ref7