Do you know your partner's STD status?

Today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its annual report on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the United States. The data, for 2009, show a continued high burden of STDs — particularly among African Americans — but also indicate some signs of progress. The STD surveillance report includes data on the three STDs — chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis — that physicians are required to report to the CDC, which represent only a fraction of the true burden of STDs in the United States.  Some common STDs, such as human papillomavirus (HPV) and genital herpes, are not reported to the CDC. In total, the CDC estimates that there are approximately 19 million new STD infections each year, which cost the U.S. health care system $16.4 billion annually.

There are some positives for African Americans. The national rate of gonorrhea is at its lowest level on record (since 1941), and cases are declining among all racial and ethnic groups; among African Americans, they've gone down 15 percent since 2006. Although there is a continuing increase in the national chlamydia rate (up 19 percent since 2006), it also suggests that more people than ever are getting screened for chlamydia, one of the most widespread STDs in the United States. For the first time in five years, syphilis rates did not increase among women overall — a promising finding that follows an 88 percent increase in syphilis rates among women from 2004 to 2008.


Before we start the conspiracy theories and why people are picking on black folks, perhaps we should think about it simply as needed information. There is a correlation between those who use public health facilities and the amount of information available about those groups. It's not really rocket science, but it is much-needed information that we can use to continue to protect ourselves and members of our community. If this information is indeed true, what can we do to continue the decline in the incidence of these STDs? Perhaps having more conversations with partners, requesting actual proof that someone is STD free and of course wearing condoms, despite what some religious readers might teach. The more we know, the better we do. Let's do better.