SPRINGFIELD – To help educate Illinoisans about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) during National STD Awareness Month, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Damon T. Arnold is encouraging everyone who is sexually active to talk with a health care professional and get tested.
There are approximately 19 million new STD infections each year – almost half of them among young people age 15 to 24 years, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For 2008, Illinois ranked eighth in the country for the rate of gonorrhea cases, 160.9 per 100,000, and ninth for the rate of chlamydia cases, 460.4. The national rates are 111.6 per 100,000 for gonorrhea and 401.3 for chlamydia. While Illinois ranked 13th in the nation for the rate of primary and secondary syphilis cases, the rate jumped from 3.6 per 100,000 in 2007, to 4.3 in 2008, which is just under the national rate of 4.5.
“We need to renew our education and testing efforts to protect people from being infected with sexually transmitted diseases and suffering the horrible health effects if left untreated,” said Dr. Arnold. “I encourage parents to talk with their children, doctors to talk with their patients, friends to talk with their friends, and most of all, sexual partners to talk with each other, about the dangers of STDS, how they can be prevented and the importance of being tested.”
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is supporting the national STD campaign, GYT: Get Yourself Talking, Get Yourself Tested, by distributing GTY toolkits to STD clinics and school based health centers, as well as encouraging local health departments, family planning clinics and other health care providers and community-based organizations to find educational materials at the CDC Web site www.toolkit.GTYNOW.org. The public can text their zip code to GYTNOW 498669 to find a nearby STD testing center
The IDPH Center for Minority Health Services has a testing center locator for Illinois as well. Through the Text 2 Survive initiative, people can text “centro” plus their five digit zip code to 36363 for Spanish, or text “IL” plus their five digit zip code to the same number for English, to find an HIV testing center in Illinois. The IDPH Center for Minority Health Services is also teaming up with the IDPH STD Program to host a webinar on STDs and health disparities on Tuesday, April 20, from noon until 1 p.m. at www.basuah.org.
Racial minorities continue to face severe disparities across all three reportable STDs, gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis, according to the CDC. While racial disparities persist overall, African Americans, especially young African-American women, are the most heavily impacted. Young African-American women face significantly higher rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea than any other group, while the highest rates of syphilis are among African-American men. In Illinois, the rate of infection for gonorrhea is 37 times higher for African Americans compared to Caucasians; for chlamydia, the rate of infection for African Americans is 15 times greater than for Caucasians.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea are bacterial infections that can easily be cured with antibiotics. However, most people do not have any symptoms and infections are often undiagnosed and untreated. Without treatment, STDs can cause serious health complications, including infertility among women.
Actions people can take to protect themselves against STDs:
• Abstinence or reduction of the number of sex partners
• Consistent and correct use of condoms
• Regular screening - getting tested and treated for STDs
“STD Awareness Month is the perfect time for communities to acknowledge the presence of sexually transmitted diseases in their neighborhoods and develop a coordinated approach among various groups and organizations to address these issues,” Dr. Arnold said.
For more information about STDs, call the HIV/STD Hotline at (800) 243-2437 (TTY – 800-782-0423) or log onto http://www.idph.state.il.us/health/std/index.htm.