Let’s talk about sex.
Sexually transmitted diseases, that is.
Recently released figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that in 2007, over 1.1 million chlamydia diagnoses were reported, up from around 1 million in 2006, making chlamydia the number one reported STD.
Though these figures may be discouraging, CDC spokesperson Nikki Kay said that the numbers may actually represent increased screenings.
“We believe [the higher numbers] represent an increase in screenings. Especially since a large number of women go unscreened,” said Kay.
Gonorrhea has stayed stable but is still at high levels. Syphilis was on its way to elimination, but in 2001 re-emerged and recently increased by 15.2 percent between 2006 and 2007, said Kay.
“The biggest increase in syphilis cases has been in men who have sex with men,” she said.
Women are three times more likely to have chlamydia than men, though this seems to be connected to a higher rate of screening than men. Within the female population, young African American women have the highest rate of chlamydia of any group, about eight times higher than the rate of white females, said the CDC annual report.
Prevention is key in lowering STD rates. Kay said that more than half of sexually active people under the age of 26 don’t get screened.
“Screening is the most effective but most underused prevention tool [for sexually active people],” said Kay, referring to chlamydia screening.
Health educator Polly Paulson with Health Education and Promotion through Student Health Services at UC Davis said more screening could be linked to higher rates of chlamydia.
“Because there is more screening, we could be uncovering more chlamydia,” she said. “But no one knows for certain.“
Paulson also says screening is crucial, especially given the nature of chlamydia.
“The issue with chlamydia is 75 percent of women have no symptoms, along with 50 percent of men,” said Paulson.
Director of Student Health Services Michelle Famula, said the Student Health Center keeps a lot of data on STD testing rates on campus.
In 2008 the center ran 2,738 chlamydia tests. Two percent of women and three percent of men tested positive.
“Anyone can come in and get tested, but more women will opt for testing when they come in for a PAP smear or a contraceptive refill,” said Famula. “Women get tested three to one compared to men.“
Compared to figures nationwide, Famula said there have been very small increases in the infectivity rate in syphilis and gonorrhea at the Health Center.
“Positives have been pretty steady. The infection rates are about the same,” she said.
With the new administration recently sworn into office, Paulson said nationwide sexual health education may see some changes in the future.
“Funding may change with the new administration,” said Paulson. “Within K through 12 environments, education may be more effective.“
Famula said people need to accept that STD incidents haven’t gone down despite the information out there to recognize when he or she is at risk.
“People need to get into the idea of testing and accepting that they may be at risk,” said Famula.
SASHA LEKACH can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.