The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) is encouraging Kansans to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STD) this April in recognition of STD Awareness Month.
To help raise awareness, KDHE’s STD Program is working with MTV, the Kaiser Family Foundation, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and other national partners to inform young people about STDs and to promote testing and treatment as needed. KDHE’s STD Program is providing both financial and technical support to Planned Parenthood of Kansas locations in Lawrence, Wichita and Hays for them to offer free STD testing for anyone who wants it in April.
In addition, Governor Kathleen Sebelius has proclaimed April as STD Awareness month and is encouraging Kansans to get STD screenings to provide early diagnosis along with treatments and vaccines to prevent serious health consequences and reduce the risk of transmission.
Approximately 19 million new sexually transmitted infections occur every year in the United States. Nearly half of these infections are among young people aged 15 to 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Sexually transmitted diseases pose a serious public health threat to Americans – particularly young women, African Americans, men who have sex with men (MSM), and individuals living in poverty or who have limited access to healthcare. STDs cost the United States health care system as much as $15.3 billion annually. A recent CDC study estimates that one in four young women between the ages of 14 and 19 in the United States – or 3.2 million teenage girls – is infected with at least one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (human papillomavirus (HPV), chlamydia, herpes simplex virus or trichomoniasis).
STDs such as chlamydia and gonorrhea are major causes of infertility among women. These and other common STDs can increase the risk of HIV transmission for both women and men. In Kansas, young women accounted for 34 percent (3,154 cases) of all reported chlamydia infections and 29 percent of all gonorrhea reports (650 cases) in 2008.
“Many of those who are infected don’t know it since many STDs often have no signs or symptoms,” said Dr. Jason Eberhart-Phillips, State Health Officer and Director of the Division of Health at KDHE. “The only way to know for sure whether you have an STD is to get tested.”
CDC and KDHE recommend annual chlamydia screening for sexually active women under the age of 26. CDC and KDHE also recommend that girls and women between the ages of 11 and 26 be vaccinated against HPV.
For sexually active MSM, recommendations are for annual HIV and syphilis blood testing, annual chlamydia testing, as well as annual gonorrhea testing, with more frequent testing for MSM who engage in high-risk behavior.
The KDHE STD Program’s “Guide to STD Services in Kansas,” including information about STD prevention, intervention and treatment is available at http://www.kdheks.gov/std/. More information about STDs can be found at http://www.cdcnpin.org/stdawareness/.
As the state’s environmental protection and public health agency, KDHE promotes responsible choices to protect the health and environment for all Kansans.
Through education, direct services and the assessment of data and trends, coupled with policy development and enforcement, KDHE will improve health and quality of life. We prevent illness, injuries and foster a safe and sustainable environment for the people of Kansas.