For over a year, the COVID-19 pandemic has commanded most of our attention and resources, delaying routine health screenings and causing a dramatic drop in testing for sexually transmitted diseases (STD). The drop in testing doesn’t mean that there’s been a drop in STDs or an increase in protected sex or abstinence. In fact, social distancing and other COVID-19 restrictions have done little to discourage sex, especially among young people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis have spread significantly over the last five years resulting in 1 in 5 people in the United States having a STD.
When you go untested, there is a higher chance of unknowingly spreading the infection to your partner – despite not showing any signs or symptoms. When left untreated, STDs can cause serious long-term health effects such as infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease or cervical cancer.
April is STD/STI Awareness Month and ACCESS wants to raise community awareness and end the stigma towards STD testing.
STD Vs. STI
STD stands for sexually transmitted disease. STI means sexually transmitted infection. Not all diseases begin with infections, but many do. Sexually transmitted disease first begin as sexually transmitted infections. Infection occurs when the sexually transmitted bacteria or virus first enters the body and begins multiplying.
Methods to Prevent STDs
- The most reliable way to avoid infection is to not have sex (i.e., anal, vaginal or oral).
- Vaccines are safe, effective, and recommended ways to prevent hepatitis B and HPV.
- HPV vaccination is recommended for preteens ages 11 or 12 (or can start at age 9) and everyone through age 26. Most individuals receive the Hepatitis B vaccine when they are babies.
- Use Condoms. Correct and consistent use of latex condoms is highly effective in reducing STD transmission. Use a condom every time you have anal, vaginal, or oral sex.
- Get Tested. Knowing your STD status is a critical step to stopping STD transmission. If you know you are infected, you can take steps to protect yourself and your partners. Even if you are asymptomatic, or not experiencing any changes in your health, you can unknowingly spread an infection to your partner.
End the Stigma
STDs are just infections. They have no inherent moral or immoral component and say nothing about your sexual history. They infect people regardless of race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation and arming yourself with education and awareness can help destigmatize and encourage testing.
Access Community Health Network
ACCESS has resources and programs aimed to support your sexual health. The ACCESS IIlinois Family Planning Program offers low to no-cost STD/STI tests, education and treatments for individuals in need as well as contraception, birth control, health education and referrals for PrEP, an HIV prevention method.
Know your status and make an appointment to see one of our ACCESS providers in person or virtually today. Schedule online here or call 1.866.267.2353.
COVID Won’t Stop Young People From Having Sex. Let’s Get Them the Health Care They Need | Guttmacher Institute
In The Shadows Of COVID-19, A Devastating Epidemic Rages On | Health Affairs
The Stigma STDs Have in Society | verywellhealth.com
The Silent Spread of STDs During the Pandemic | Think Global Health
STD Awareness: Stigma and Sexually Transmitted Diseases | Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona (plannedparenthoodaction.org)