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Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) Awareness Month – Spread the Word

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) Awareness Month – Spread the Word

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  • The Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Awareness Month is observed every year in April in the United States
  • Currently STDs are at a record high
  • Theme: 'Treat Me Right'

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) Awareness Month is observed annually every April to raise public awareness about the impact of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) on the lives of Americans and the need to prevent, test for, and treat the conditions. It is an effort to normalize routine STD testing and encourage conversations on sexual health and not to be embarrassed about it.

Treat Me Right

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and partners are reaching out to healthcare providers and patients this STD Awareness Month with the very important message:Treat Me Right.

STDs are currently at a record high - the reason why it is most important for a provider to protect a patients' sexual health or for a patient to stand up for their own sexual health. To achieve this, a strong patient-provider relationship is utmost important, and hence, the stronger these relationships get, the weaker STDs will become.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) Awareness Month – Spread the Word

With this year's theme as Treat Me Right, CDC has some tips and suggestions to strengthen this patient-provider relationship.

Providers should foster a trusting patient-provider relationship, so that patients are correctly diagnosed and treated.

Patients should know what they can do, to stay safe and healthy and how to directly ask their provider for the care that they need and deserve.

The CDC website has a list of STD prevention resources that readers can find for partners, providers, patients, and more.

CDC's recommendations for Patients: You Matter. Your Health Matters.

CDC is encouraging patients to take control of their health by asking them what they need.

Cases of gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis are at an all-time high. If left untreated, STDs can cause serious problems like: 
  • Increasing the risk of transmitting or contracting HIV
  • Causing long-term pelvic and/or abdominal pain
  • Inability to get pregnant or pregnancy complications.
Patients have to understand that the only way to find out the presence of STDs is to get tested and treated.

Look for a healthcare provider who is willing to talk to you about your condition. The doctor should treat you with respect, listen to your opinions and concerns and encourage you to ask questions. They should be able to explain things in ways you understand, recommend preventive services, like screening tests and shots and be able to treat many health problems including STDs. If you need more help with a specific health issue, they should refer you to a specialist.

Talk to your healthcare provider openly about your sexual health, as it is an important aspect of your health. If the providers do not discuss sex or STD testing, be open about it and bring it up. By "taking a sexual history" they can understand what STD tests you may need. Be honest about your answers; you can ask them questions as well, like how to protect yourself from getting an STD, what tests you will need to take, or how often to get tested. Check with your doctor whether hepatitis B and HPV vaccines are available, and if it is something you should consider.

Treat Me Right also includes getting all of the STD tests that you need. While anyone who has sex can get an STD, CDC recommends STD testing for people who are at higher risk for STDs.

If you test positive for an STD always remember that many STDs are curable, and all are treatable. Even if only one of you (you or your partner) has an STD that can be cured, both of you will need to start treatment immediately to avoid getting re-infected and also to avoid health problems down the road.

Make sure to get the prescription filled and take your medication as prescribed. The prescriptions should not be shared with your partner.

If the STDs cannot be cured, taking the right medicine can help. Medicine or a prescription can be given to your partner too, even without the provider seeing them first. Ask about this option known as expedited partner therapy (EPT). EPT is a clinical practice of treating the sex partners of patients diagnosed with chlamydia or gonorrhea by passing on prescriptions or medications to the partner through their patient in times when they are unable to seek timely treatment.

Get retested in 3 months even if you and your partner took medicines, as some STDs can occur more than once, especially chlamydia and gonorrhea. So remember, this April, Get Tested, Get Treated.

CDC's recommendations for Providers: What you do matters.

Millions are threatened by STDs right now as rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis continue to climb. CDC urges healthcare providers, being the protectors of health across the U.S to help put an end to STDs. As mentioned earlier, this STD Awareness Month, the focus is on the relationship between the provider and the patient.
  • With the theme Treat Me Right, CDC is arming the providers with the tools they need to treat patients right - from detecting an infection, selecting the correct treatment regimen, engaging with them in a way that makes them feel heard and respected and delivering care that is not biased by cultural differences.
  • Providers should start by taking a thorough Sexual History of the patient which is an important part of the patients' overall medical history; it also allows the provider to make informed clinical decisions, normalize and destigmatize discussions around sex. This can be done discreetly by introducing the topic of sexual health into the patient questionnaires before the visit.
  • Providers should use the sexual history to determine what STDs the patient should be tested for and the anatomical sites to test.
  • Let the patient know how they will get their test results after taking the test. The providers should follow CDC's STD Treatment Guidelines to treat their patients when they are diagnosed with an STD. (An important point to note is that the only recommended treatment for syphilis is injectable long-acting Benzathine penicillin G).
  • Use the Expedited Partner Therapy (EPT) to verify that the patient's partners are tested and treated if they are unwilling or unable to access care.
  • Reinfection is common for some STDs. Encourage the patients to return for follow-up testing in 3 months.
  • Encourage risk reduction by providing prevention counseling to all sexually active adolescents and adults at increased risk for STDs.
CDC lists the following tips for providers to help ensure productive conversations with  patients:
  • Foster trust with your patient by creating a welcoming and inclusive clinic (one that is teen-friendly, as well) or office environment.
  • Make use of private spaces to ask sensitive questions to ensure your patients feel comfortable and confident of being protected by everyone in your office.
  • Offer your services to all patients, as sexual health is a normal part of a person's overall health and well-being - normalize your sexual health questions and STD/HIV testing recommendations.
  • Try not to make assumptions about the patient.
  • Standardize sexual orientation/gender identity (SOGI) questions.
  • Try rephrasing the question or briefly explain why you are asking, if the patient is hesitant.

What you can do this month

  • Program planners and prevention partners can use CDC's resources on STD prevention outreach efforts to reach out to a maximum number of people. There are graphics you can add to your website, social media posts and STD prevention infographics.
  • Healthcare providers can use the CDC's 2015 clinical guidance on STD prevention, diagnosis, and treatment online, as well as, a wall chart, pocket guide, free mobile app for Apple and Android devices, an online learning experience on how to manage STDs, teen friendly office tips and many more.
Finally, if you are a program planner use the provider resources on the CDC website for your educational and outreach efforts.

Individuals can participate by posting on social media throughout the month.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

STDs are passed from one person to another through intimate physical contact, heavy petting, and from sexual activity. There are about 20 million new STDs every year in the United States.

STDs such as syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia are spread mainly by sexual contact while others like Zika and Ebola can be spread sexually, but are more often spread through ways other than sex.

There are ways to prevent getting STDs by not having sex, by having protected sex (using condoms) and by being in a sexual relationship with a partner who does not have an STD. It is tricky to know if you have an STD since they do not always cause symptoms. It is possible to have an infection and not know it. So, it is most important to get tested if you are having sex.

Do your bit to spread the word this month about STD and the need to get tested.

Reference :
  1. STD Awareness Month - (https://www.cdc.gov/std/sam/index.htm)

Source: Medindia

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