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7 Important Facts to Know About STDs


SOURCE: AP/Charles Rex Arbogast

Dr. Donald Brown, left, inoculates 14-year-old Kelly Kent with an HPV vaccine in his Chicago office, August 28, 2006.

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April is STD Awareness Month and an opportunity to highlight the largely hidden impact that sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, have in the United States.

  1. Each year in the United States, nearly 20 million new STD cases are diagnosed.
  2. Young people ages 15 to 24 account for approximately 50 percent of STD infections.
  3. The annual cost of diagnosing and treating STDs in the United States is $16 billion.
  4. Human papillomavirus, or HPV, which can cause cancer, is the most common STD. Estimates show that 79 million people are infected with HPV in the United States.
  5. There is a vaccine to prevent the most common and dangerous types of HPV, but the United States has one of the worst HPV vaccination rates of all developed countries. The vaccination rates in the South are the lowest in the country; the South also has the country’s highest rates of cervical cancer.
  6. Untreated STDs can lead to infertility. In fact, each year, 24,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with infertility due to untreated STDs.
  7. African Americans are disproportionately affected by STDs. African Americans make up just more than 12 percent of the U.S. population but in 2010 accounted for 47 percent of new HIV cases and 69 percent of new gonorrhea cases. Black women have rates of chlamydia infection seven times higher than white women.

At some point in their lives, nearly all sexually active people will be infected with an STD. Far more resources and attention need to be targeted toward raising awareness of the burden of these diseases in the United States and promoting behaviors and practices to treat undetected infections and prevent more from occurring.

Donna Barry is the Director of the Women’s Health and Rights Program at the Center for American Progress.

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