While we’d like to report that the number of people infected by a sexually transmitted disease (STD) is going down thanks to increasing awareness, the fact is that STDs remain a clear and present health problem in the United States, with over 20 million reported cases each year.
At Gardena Women’s Center, our goal is to bring those numbers down, starting with our patients in the Gardena, California, area. Through simple, and regular, STD testing, we can gain the upper hand on STDs, helping our patients avoid the serious health complications, including infertility, that often arises when STDs aren’t detected and treated early on. Not to mention, we can do our part to prevent the spread of STDs.
In the following, we take a look at the major STDs and how often you should be tested for them.
Human papillomavirus (HPV)
It’s estimated that 80% of the sexually active population in the U.S. has been infected by HPV, totaling 79 million people. The reason behind these staggering numbers is that there are over 100 types of HPV, most of which your body is able to fight off on its own. There are a few types of the virus, however, that lead to genital warts and, in rare cases, the infection can cause cell changes on your cervix that can turn cancerous.
If you see Dr. Gwen Allen regularly for your annual well-woman exam, she monitors the health of your cervix through a harmless Pap test, which is a simple swab. If she finds any abnormal cells, she monitors you more closely to prevent the cells from becoming precancerous.
If you have outward signs of HPV, namely genital warts, come in and see us right away so we can clear up the infection to avoid more serious complications.
When it comes to HPV, there’s a vaccine that we now give to girls between the ages of 9 and 12, which can help take HPV out of the picture entirely. Please note that, in some cases, we can still administer the vaccine to women up until the age of 26.
The CDC estimates that there are more than 800,000 new cases of gonorrhea each year and people between the ages of 15 and 24 represent the lion’s share of these numbers. For women, untreated gonorrhea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which can wreak havoc on their reproductive organs.
But this can all be avoided with regular screening, as well as early intervention when you’ve been infected. The CDC recommends that all sexually active women under the age of 25 should be screened annually and, if you fall into a high-risk category (multiple sex partners or a partner that’s infected), you should continue the screening past this age. The test is simple enough — we simply take a swab of your genitals or a sample of your urine.
If you have been infected, rest assured we can swiftly treat your gonorrhea before it becomes a larger health issue.
Each year, approximately three million in the U.S. are infected by this common bacterial infection, which we can easily treat with a course of antibiotics. Like most STDs, if your chlamydia goes untreated, you’re at risk for more serious problems down the road that can affect your fertility.
We recommend that, like gonorrhea, you come in for an annual screening before the age of 25 and annually after that if you have multiple partners or a partner who’s already infected. The test is easy — it’s a swab of your genitals or a urine sample.
Thanks to awareness efforts and new treatments, there are only 50,000 new cases of HIV each year in the U.S. While this number is still nothing to celebrate, it’s a far cry from just two decades ago when half a million people were diagnosed with HIV each year. This decrease is mostly due to testing and awareness, as well as new medications that help people live with the STD without passing it on.
You can protect yourself from this serious STD by practicing safe sex and knowing when to test yourself. The CDC recommends that you get tested at least once between the ages of 13 and 64, and more often if you engage in risky sexual behavior.
We want to note that if you’re working on getting pregnant or you are pregnant, we do recommend that you undergo a comprehensive screening for syphilis, HIV, hepatitis B, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. This is important for both your health and the health of your unborn child.
While all of the information above may seem a little confusing, the bottom line is that we can sit down with you and come up with an appropriate STD testing scheduling based on your unique situation. We offer confidential and non-judgmental services here at our practice and our only goal is to maintain your health through good preventive care.
To get started, please give us a call or use the online scheduling tool on this website to book an appointment.