Nearly 20 million new Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) occur in the United States every year, costing the American healthcare system nearly $16 billion in direct medical costs alone, according to the CDC. In addition to the health consequences of STIs and the increased risk of acquiring or transmitting HIV that is associated with STIs, the looming global threat of treatment-resistant gonorrhea makes prevention critical.
In Maryland, STI rates continue to be higher than the national average for gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis, the three STIs (in addition to HIV and AIDS) that are reported to DHMH and local health departments. Adolescents, young adults, females, gay and bisexual men, and people of color are disproportionately affected by STIs.
In 2011, the last year for which data are available:
Syphilis rates in Maryland rose from the previous year. According to the CDC, Maryland ranked 2nd in the U.S. for primary and secondary syphilis (the infectious stages of syphilis), with 452 cases per 100,000 population, a rate of 7.8, compared to the U.S. rate of 4.5.
Maryland ranked 16th in the nation for Chlamydia, with 27,212 cases reported, a rate of 471.3 per 100,000 population. The national Chlamydia rate for the same period was 457.6.
Maryland ranked 16th for gonorrhea; 6,458 cases reported were reported, a rate of 111.9 per 100,000 population compared with a national rate of 104.2.
"Sexual health is an important part of overall health. Individuals, parents, health care providers, and the community all have roles to play in promoting sexual health and reducing sexually transmitted infections, including HIV," said Dr. Laura Herrera, Deputy Secretary for Public Health
The health consequences of STIs include: infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, chronic pain, fetal and infant illness or death, an increased risk for certain cancers, the risk of becoming infected with HIV, and if infected with HIV, transmitting HIV more easily to others. The good news is there are effective ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat STIs.
Abstaining from sex, reducing the number of sexual partners, and consistently and correctly using condoms are all effective STI prevention strategies. Safe, effective vaccines are also available for all individuals who are sexually active – particularly young people to prevent hepatitis B and some types of the human papillomavirus (HPV) that cause disease and cancer. STI screening and early diagnosis are essential in preventing transmission and the long-term health consequences of STIs.
To help combat STIs, DHMH is co-sponsoring its Fourth Annual Sexual and Reproductive Health live webinar. "STI Hot Topics: What’s New in Sexually Transmitted Infections,” will be presented by Dr. John G. Bartlett on Wednesday, April 17, from noon to 1:30 pm. Health professionals interested in watching the webinar can log on to www.jhsph.edu/maphtc.
To learn more about STIs in Maryland, or to find a testing site near you, visit the DHMH Center for Sexually Transmitted Infection Prevention at http://phpa.dhmh.maryland.gov/OIDPCS/CSTIP/, or call 410-767-6690. Information can also be found at www.cdc.gov/std