April recognized as STD Awareness Month

Photo by Geoff Crunick

Photo by Geoff Crunick

COVINGTON -- The Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale County Health Departments are recognizing April as Sexually Transmitted Diseases Awareness Month. They are encouraging residents to become informed about STD infections, prevention methods, signs and symptoms, available treatment and public health services.

According to Suleima Salgado, director of public relations and health promotions, this year's campaign is geared toward adolescents and young adults as the CDC states that one in every two sexually active young people will contract an STD by the age of 25.

"The lack of correct information, misconceptions about transmission and social stigma associated with STDs keep many young people from getting tested," said District Communicable Disease Supervisor Lisa Jackson. "Our top priority is to connect with young people wherever they are and provide them with the facts."

STD screening can help detect disease early and when combined with treatment, is one of the most effective tools available to protect one's health and prevent the spread of STDs to others.

According to the CDC, in 2009 there were more than 1.5 million cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea reported to the CDC -- making them the two most commonly reported infectious diseases in the U.S. Half of new STD infections occur among young people ages 15 to 24, even though this age group makes up only 25 percent of the sexually active population.

Locally, 2009 statistics show combined reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis among all ages as 591 cases in Newton and 419 in Rockdale. Of those reported cases for ages 13 through 19, there were 255 in Newton and 171 in Rockdale.

Experts warn that untreated STDs may cause long-term health problems including infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, neurological damage and the spread of infection to others. Viral STDs like herpes simplex virus and human papillomavirus, for which there is no cure, have a lifelong impact on physical, psychological and emotional health.

"STDs affect people of all races, ages and sexual orientations," Salgado said. "Our health departments are dedicated to providing confidential counseling, testing, treatment and education."

To find a nearby testing location, go to www.hivtest.org/STDTesting.aspx. For more information about STD Awareness Month, go to www.cdc.gov/Features/STDAwareness.