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U.S. News

Little Progress in Stemming STDs

October 14, 2005

Health experts estimate there are 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases in the United States each year, up from 15 million about ten years ago. The numbers are not exact because not all STDs are reported to CDC, and some people do not know they are infected because STDs do not always show symptoms.

One in five Americans, officials estimate, has genital herpes. More than half of US women will contract human papillomavirus, which causes genital warts and can lead to cervical cancer. At least a million Americans have HIV.

Many people who transmit STDs are unaware they are infected, experts say. The solution is to get tested regularly if having sex with multiple partners. But discussions about STDs are often missing from routine check-ups and discussions with potential sexual partners. "People don't want to conceptualize themselves as being at risk," said Dr. Edward Hook, a spokesperson for the American Social Health Association and professor of medicine at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

"STDs are taking a tremendous toll on American health," said Jessica Frickey, an HIV and STD specialist at CDC.

Doctors have only recently become aware of some STDs. One, lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV), is a type of chlamydia detected among some homosexual men. Another infection, mycoplasma genitalium, is a cause of inflammation of the urethra in men; doctors so far know little else about it.

Hook said that consistent condom us is "still woefully uncommon." "I think the progress against STDs has been modest at best," he noted, because it is hard to convince Americans to pay attention to their sexual health. He cited a need to "resolve the American paradox in which sex and sexuality pervade nearly every part of society, the entertainment and media, but when it comes to our own health we don't want to address the problem."

Back to other news for October 14, 2005

Adapted from:
10.12.2005; Jacqueline Stenson

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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