Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have skyrocketed in California during the last five years. According to the Department of Health, common STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis have increased by a whopping 45 percent, with more than 300,000 cases of these STIs being reported in 2017 alone.
What’s going on here? Although we don’t know all the reasons for this dramatic increase, people appear less concerned about getting infected—trusting that medical treatments will restore them to health. The downside of this is that people gain a false sense of security; they believe STIs are no longer a threat. Unfortunately, this is not the case: STIs are becoming more common and more drug resistant, and thus, more dangerous. To augment this problem, we now have websites and online apps that facilitate sexual encounters without regard for safe sex practices.
One of the best ways to prevent STIs from spreading is to use a condom. In the 1990s and 2000s, fear of contracting HIV/AIDS increased condom use because in the early days, HIV/AIDS was a death sentence. Now, with improved treatments and even prophylaxis (preventive treatment) for HIV available, people are less concerned, resulting in a decreased use of condoms, which in turn, has resulted in a significant increase in STIs.
Here’s some information about the most common STIs:
Although many STIs are treatable, people without symptoms don’t seek treatment because they don’t realize they need to. Instead, they unknowingly spread the infections.
To prevent contracting or spreading sexually transmitted infections, here are a few tips:
If you have any unusual discharge, inflammation, odors, sores or other symptoms, consult with your healthcare provider immediately. Untreated STIs can cause serious problems, from pain to infertility and even death.
MCHC Health Centers and other federally qualified health centers offer STI testing, as do organizations such as MCAVHN and the Mendocino County Public Health Department. Testing is confidential, and in many cases, low-cost or free. If you feel uncomfortable telling a scheduler why you want an appointment, you can say it is for a personal matter you would rather discuss with your provider. Get tested at least annually if you have multiple sexual partners.
Larry Aguirre is a physician assistant at MCHC Health Centers—a local, non-profit, federally qualified health center offering medical, dental and behavioral health care to people in Lake and Mendocino Counties.