April is STD Awareness Month Take Control. Get the Facts. Get Tested.

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There are nearly 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the US each year, but obvious symptoms often don't develop and many people who contract an STD are unaware they and their partners are at risk. With this in mind the American Social Health Association (ASHA) and the National Coaltion of STD Directors (NCSD) recognize April as National STD Awareness Month and emphasize testing as a key component for sexual health.

There are nearly 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the U.S. each year, but obvious symptoms often don't develop and many people who contract an STD are unaware they and their partners are at risk. With this in mind the American Social Health Association (ASHA) and National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) recognize April as National STD Awareness Month, and emphasize testing as a key component for sexual health. "We encourage anyone who is sexually active to discuss testing for HIV and other STDs with their health care provider, even if they have no symptoms," says ASHA president and CEO Lynn B. Barclay, who explains that the most commonly reported bacterial STD, chlamydia, often doesn't cause symptoms in women (and sometimes men) but when undetected in women the infection can spread to the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). If untreated, PID can lead to chronic pelvic pain and infertility. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends routine chlamydia testing for women under age 26, and for women who are pregnant or have new or multiple partners. CDC also recommends routine HIV testing for those ages 13-64. While not a test for STDs, women should also have regular Pap tests. In addition to testing, Don Clark, Executive Director of NCSD encourages partners to talk about sexual health, and this includes discussing safer sex practices such as condom use. "Condoms have proven value in reducing transmission of chlamydia, HIV, and other STDs," Clark says, and notes that condom use is also associated with lower incidence of cervical cancer.

While STDs are common across all groups, young people are hit especially hard: Approximately half of all new STDs occur in youth ages 15-24 and a recent study presented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that 1 in 4 girls and young women between the ages of 14 and 19 have at least one of the more common STDs. "It's fine to talk about abstinence, but we need to face the reality that most individuals are sexually active prior to marriage, and our current approach of abstinence only education for young people clearly isn't working. Teens need accurate information, and research clearly shows comprehensive approaches to sex education that include both abstinence and safer sex messages work in promoting responsible, healthy behaviors."

For more information download ASHA's STD Fact Sheets in pdf format at http://www.ashastd.org/news/news_factsheets.cfm. Also visit ASHA's STD Message Board Forums online at http://www.ashastd.org/phpbb/index.php for support and information.

American Social Health Association - ASHA has been dedicated to improving the health of individuals, families, and communities, with a focus on preventing sexually transmitted diseases and their harmful consequences for since 1914. ASHA delivers accurate, reliable health information to millions of people worldwide via a variety of education programs.

The National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) is a partnership of public health professionals dedicated to the prevention of STDs. NCSD provides dynamic leadership that strengthens STD Programs by advocating for effective policies, strategies, and sufficient resources and by increasing awareness of their medical and social impact.

Media Contact:
Fred Wyand
P.O. Box 13827
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709
(919) 361 - 3124 (voice)
(919) 361 - 8425 (fax)
mediarelations@ashastd.org
http://www.ashastd.org
http://www.ncsddc.org

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