The State of STDs in America and the world
The CDC’s annual report on sexually transmitted diseases showed that STDs in the US have increased for the fifth consecutive year, reaching an all-time high across three of the most commonly reported STDs (gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis). STD testing for men, women, and transgender men and women have resulted in nearly 1.8 million new chlamydia cases, over 500,000 gonorrhea cases, and north of 100,000 new syphilis cases. And these are only the reported cases. The CDC estimates over 20 million new STDs in the US each year. WHO estimates more than 1 million new curable sexually transmitted infections every day worldwide.
The CDC’s recommendations for STD screening does not include testing for men
STDs in the US are an epidemic, AKA a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease. That means everyone is at risk, right? We think so. But the CDC’s recommendations on STD testing have left us confused–STD testing for men seems to be omitted.
Image from CDC Website on STD testing recommendations
So what’s wrong with this picture? STD rates have risen for the 5th consecutive year and the CDC recommends that only women, and gay/bisexual men should get tested for STDs.
Why the CDC doesn’t recommend STD testing for men in their report
Um, what about sexually active straight men? Don’t women get STDs from their heterosexual partners? If so, why are heterosexual men not being asked to get tested? From a population health perspective, the CDC claims there’s no evidence that widespread screening of heterosexual men leads to benefits for the whole population, even if it theoretically could cut down on STD transmission.
The CDC has listed the following criteria as requirements for recommending widespread screening:
- The infection should be reasonably common in the population,
- There needs to be a good screening test for it,
- (most importantly) It should prevent a bad outcome
However, this doesn’t mean heterosexual men shouldn’t get tested:
Untreated chlamydia and gonorrhea in pregnant women can lead to miscarriage, premature labor, and low birth weight, and infertility. For men, the consequences are less severe, but they can easily share STDs to their partners. Yes, public funding is limited and should be used to curb widespread infections based on the criteria above. But we believe the burden shouldn’t fall exclusively on women.
Testing shouldn’t exclusively fall on women and gay/bisexual men. STD testing for men should be encouraged.
Ash’s core mission is to make sexual health and wellness more accessible and inclusive. Ladies in heterosexual relationships: you should DEFINITELY expect your partners to get tested.
Ash makes it easy to do this. Share our testing kits with your partners and your partner’s partners. Remember, many STIs can have no symptoms (asymptomatic) at all. The only way to know you have them is to test for them. Let’s start testing today!