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STD Awareness Month: Get tested, and please volunteer

The US Centers for Disease Control observe April as STD Awareness Month. According to the CDC:

* There are approximately 19 million new cases of STDs each year in the United States, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.

* Direct medical costs associated with STDs in the United States are estimated at $16.4 billion annually.

* Blacks represent 12 percent of the U.S. population yet account for almost half of all reported chlamydia and syphilis cases and more than 70 percent of all reported gonorrhea cases.

* New CDC data show that women are more likely to be infected with HSV-2 (also known as herpes) than men. The most affected group is black women.

* Most STDs have been associated with increased risk of HIV transmission. Blacks accounted for almost half of new HIV infections.

More below the fold.The disparity in health equity is depressing. The occurence of STDs is highest in rural parts of the US, with the greatest concentration in the south. Women are 2.7 times more likely to have chlamydia than men, and men are 5.6 times more likely to have syphilis than women. People between the ages of 15 and 24 are four times more likely to have a STD than the population at large. African Americans are 8.7 times more likely than whites to have chlamydia, and 20.5 times more likely to have gonorrhea.

Even if you are in a stable, monogamous relationship, get yourself tested: just because you have been faithful does not mean your partner has. If you need to find a testing clinic in your area, visit the CDC’s National HIV and STD Testing Resources page.

There are now vaccines for some STDs, including hepatitis A and HPV. If you not had these vaccines, please talk to your doctor about getting them: it could save your life.

And speaking of vaccines, if you are in one of the areas where HIV vaccine testing is being done (see map above), PLEASE consider becoming a volunteer. Several studies are currently under way, primarily with MSM between the ages of 18 and 40. Even if they do not need you today, new studies open up regularly. At the very least, people are needed for the community advisory boards: residents of the local community who serve as the ethical conscience of the studies and who advocate for the volunteers by making sure that disclosure documents are complete, concise and easy to understand. If anyone wants more information, publicly or privately, I have been both a vaccine participant (in 1997-1999) and am currently a member of the Seattle HIV Testing Unit’s community advisory board.

The first step to eradicating STDs is awareness, and you can help. If you blog, please write an article. If you just post on Facebook, link to the CDC’s page on STD Awareness Month. At the very least, talk to your partner(s) and get yourself tested. Working together, we can change the world.

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Gregory Gadow

Gregory Gadow