Every year, more than 20 million new sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) occur—and those are only the infections that are diagnosed. In 2019, more than 2.5 million infections were reported. Since 2015, cases of chlamydia increased by 19 percent, gonorrhea was up 56 percent, and syphilis up 74 percent. Unfortunately, the volume for testing for STDs has not followed pace.
As more people are emerging from distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, public health experts are worried about the continued rise of STDs.
STDs, including human papillomavirus (HPV), gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia, disproportionately affect women.
- Women are less likely to experience symptoms than men, so they often discover their infection later.
- Bacteria thrive in warm, moist environments like the vagina that encourage growth.
- The vagina is an internal organ, which can make it more difficult to see symptoms, such as rashes or sores, unlike the penis, which is external.
- Symptoms such as discharge and vaginal itching are also symptoms of common yeast infections, making it easier for women to consider them just another minor concern rather than an STD.
The effects of STDs are particularly concerning for women:
- Many STDs can cause infertility.
- STDs can also cause ectopic pregnancies, which can result in infertility and even threaten the mother’s life if the condition isn’t identified early enough.
- Pregnant mothers can pass STDs to their unborn child, resulting in a variety of difficulties, including brain damage, low birth weight, early delivery, and stillbirth.
- HPV is the most common STD in women and is the most common cause of cervical cancer. While HPV also affects men, serious health problems for men are less common.
Open communication with your partner is critical to protecting yourself from STDs. Be sure to take proper precautions, such as using condoms during sexual activity, and talk to your primary care doctor about your personal risk factors.
All of our urgent care centers can test for STDs. Samples will be sent to a lab with results received within 24-72 hours. Weekend tests will be received by the lab on Monday.
Sources: northwestern.edu, acog.org, iwannaknow.org, ashasexualhealth.org, bcm.edu, northwestern.edu, aarp.org