Take Charge of Your Sexual Health: Get Tested
Young people and men who have sex with men (MSM) are encouraged to get tested for STDs
April is sexually transmitted disease (STD) awareness month. It is essential to know about STDs and how prevention and testing are critical to overall health.
However, STD Awareness Month is not just about awareness but also about action. Bay Area health officials, including those in San Mateo County, are urging everyone who is sexually active to take charge of their sexual health. Young people and men who have sex with men are at particular risk and should get tested more often.
STD testing is more crucial than ever because STD rates are continuing to rise, increasing steadily in San Mateo County and statewide since 2013. Rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis continue to grow. San Mateo County gonorrhea case numbers and rates are the highest reported since 2000, with a 32 percent increase in cases from 2016 to 2017. Syphilis has reemerged as a significant public health concern in California, where 283 infants were born with congenital syphilis in 2017. While San Mateo County has not seen a reported case of congenital syphilis since 2015, early syphilis cases increased 7 percent from 2016 to 2017.
Chlamydia is the most common reportable disease in California. This disease, like most STDs, is easily preventable and treatable but can cause serious health problems such as infertility if left untreated. In San Mateo County, between 2003 and 2017, chlamydia rates more than doubled, from 1,376 to 2,873 cases. National statistics estimate that one out of every two young people will have an STD before age 25.
“Often times, someone can have an STD and not show any symptoms,” said San Mateo County STD Control Officer Dr. Vivian Levy. “The only way to stop the ongoing spread of STDs is through regular testing. Providers need to encourage their primary care patients to get tested, and patients should ask to get tested. Clinical providers should consider obtaining a brief sexual history to guide testing for all adult and adolescent clinic visits.”
Most STDs can be treated quickly and effectively by your health care provider. San Mateo County Health offers testing, treatment, and partner services and select field-delivered therapy. A list of County and partner testing locations in and around San Mateo County can be found at www.smchealth.org/general-information/testing-locations.
In an ideal world, everyone who needs STD checks would be routinely engaged in care, have payment coverage, and be able to approach the subject of sexual health with ease. However, there are many barriers to people obtaining health care and seeking preventative care including racial inequity, poverty, and stigma. In the case of an untreated STD, there can be some severe consequences.
Fortunately, there are many tools besides testing to prevent STDs, including HIV. Young people can get vaccinated for human papillomavirus virus (HPV), which is the most common STD and can cause cervical and throat cancer. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), consisting of taking one pill a day, effectively prevents HIV in at-risk persons. Additionally, practicing safe sex, using condoms, and talking to partners about sexual health are effective methods of STD and HIV prevention.
For more information about San Mateo County Health STD services, visit www.smchealth.org/std.
About San Mateo County Health
As a county health department, San Mateo County Health administers public health programs and provides clinical and supportive services to the community. Our mission is to help everyone in San Mateo County live longer and better lives.