Take three simple actions to protect your health: Talk. Test. Treat.
Starting this STD Awareness Month, CDC is calling on individuals and healthcare providers to take three simple actions: Talk. Test. Treat. Remember these three words, learn what they mean and how to apply them, and then carry out these important healthy habits all year long!
The Inside Story on Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
Too many people want to avoid the topic altogether, but public health data show us that there is a hidden STD epidemic in this nation. In fact, CDC estimates 20 million new STD infections occur each year in the United States, costing the healthcare system nearly $16 billion in direct medical costs. There are also now more than 110 million total sexually transmitted infections in U.S. men and women.
Why do we care?
For the first time in nearly a decade, rates for three of the most common STDs (chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis) all increased at the same time. These infections can threaten immediate and long-term health and well-being. Untreated STDs can lead to reproductive complications such as infertility (inability to get pregnant) and ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the womb). They can also increase a person's risk for getting and giving HIV.
Young people aged 15–24 and gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men continue to be at greatest risk for infection. Why? It's complicated, but we know that individual risk behaviors aren't the only reason. Environmental, social, and cultural factors, including a high level of STDs in these populations and difficulty in accessing quality health care contribute to a higher STD burden.
The good news is that STDs are preventable!
There are steps everyone can take to avoid the negative health consequences and to reduce the overall burden of STDs.
Let's breakdown how you can Talk. Test. Treat to protect your sexual health:
TALK. Talk openly with your partner(s) and your healthcare provider about sex and STDs.
- Talk with your partner before having sex. Not sure how? We've got a resource to help you get started. If you're going to have sex, discuss the many prevention options available, including the use of condoms.
- Talk with your healthcare provider about your sexual history, and ask what STD tests are right for you.
TREAT. If you test positive for an STD, work with your doctor to get the correct treatment.
Some STDs can be cured with the right medication. Those that aren't curable can be treated. To ensure treatment is successful, be sure to
- Take all of the medicine your doctor prescribes for you, and don't share it with anyone.
- Don't have sex again until both you and your partner(s) have completed your treatment.
Healthcare providers can help too. Protecting your patient's health is also as easy as Talk. Test. Treat.
TALK. Providing the best care possible means talking with your patients about sexual health and safe sex practices.
- This involves taking an accurate sexual history. Here are some tips[218 KB] on how to take a good one. Uncomfortable asking questions about sex? Don't be—studies have shown that most patients want to be asked about their sexual health.
- Talking also means counseling your patients on how to have safe sex, and ensuring that they know about the many prevention options currently available. Use CDC counseling messages to alleviate fear and anxiety associated with certain STD diagnoses.
TEST. Test your patients as recommended by CDC. We know you're busy, so we've put together an overview of CDC's STD screening recommendations.
Pregnant women can get STDs, too. Protect mother and baby by testing all pregnant women for syphilis, HIV, chlamydia, and hepatitis B, as well as testing at-risk women for gonorrhea, starting early in pregnancy. Read CDC's STDs during pregnancy fact sheet , so that you can easily reference who you should test and when.
TREAT. Follow CDC's STD Treatment Guidelines to make sure your patients get successful treatment and care. Keep this guidance at your fingertips by downloading our free app for Apple and Android devices from this page.
You should also know about your role in these important treatment topics:
- Expedited Partner Therapy, or EPT, for partners of your patients unwilling or unable to access care. More information is available on our website.You can also contact your state or local health department to learn more about EPT in your area.
- Drug-resistant gonorrhea is making this common infection harder to treat. Preserve our last treatment option by only using the CDC recommended dual therapy.