Gonorrhea and Chlamydia are the most commonly reported notifiable sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the US territory of Puerto Rico (PR). STD rates in PR have increased significantly over the past ten years. It is worth noting that the most common infectious disease in PR is often an STD.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are the initial stage of STDs. The infection could be caused by a virus, bacteria, or parasites, and it is usually transmitted via unprotected vagina, oral, or anal sex. Furthermore, skin-to-skin genital contact and needle exchange can also become causes of infection. Do you know that Zika Virus is also a sexually transmitted disease?
Syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia are the most commonly reported STDs in the USA and PR. In most cases, these infections can be transmitted unknowingly since a person may be asymptomatic and exhibit no specific symptoms of infection. Depending on the infection, symptoms may appear within a few days or take several weeks to be detected. Such as chlamydia, genital herpes, and gonorrhea symptoms may appear after several weeks while syphilis, hepatitis B, and HIV symptoms could take several months to appear,
Some of the common symptoms that may appear on their own or in combination are burning sensation when urinating, abnormal genital discharge, bleeding following intercourse, rashes or sores in or around anal and genital areas, sudden fever and flu-like symptoms and swollen lymph glands.
You can prevent yourself from getting affected by STDs if only you make STD testing a regular part of your annual health checkup. If you are infected, it could be diagnosed early and receive treatment immediately. If diagnosed and treated at the right time, it is possible to prevent further progression of an STD and its transmission to another individual.
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Chlamydia is the most frequently reported STD in PR, and gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported notifiable disease in this region, according to the statistics shared by the PR STD Surveillance Office and the US Census Bureau. From 1991 to 2004, the reported chlamydia infection rates increased from over 2 to more than 92 cases/100,000 people. In 2004, gonorrhea and chlamydia infection rates in Fajardo and Metro health regions were the highest amongst all health regions in the territory.
According to the PR STD Surveillance Office, between 1991 and 2004, the chlamydia rate increased by a staggering 4,376%, and gonorrhea cases dropped by over 56% in PR. The decrease in gonorrhea rates indicates changes in screening practices, reporting practices, and diagnostic tests with diverse sensitivities. This could be because of an increase in the number of people getting screened for STDs after expanding testing facilities and clinics across the region.
As per social and epidemiological statistics, the high prevalence of HIV and other STDs in Puerto Rico is more concentrated among the underserved and vulnerable populace. Hence a larger disparity is created between these populations. High-risk sexual practices in these vulnerable groups increase the rate of disease transmission. Moreover, the lack of screening and access to better health care services.
In Puerto Rico, syphilis rates among men and women were almost the same in 2001, but by 2008, the rate among males was six times higher. This disparity could be due to the growing incidence rate of syphilis in men who have sex with men (MSM).
Between 2000 and 2004, chlamydia rates were the highest among females and males aged 20-24 years. Conversely, gonorrhea rates in PR decreased from 1991 and 2004, going from over 16 to 7 cases per 100,000 people, and the rates were highest among males and females aged 20-24 years.
Chlamydia positivity and co-infection rate with gonorrhea in Puerto Rican women between 2003 and 2005 was 6.6% among females aged 15-30 years and those aged 15-22 years, and the positivity rate was 8.4%. Among women aged 23-30 years, this rate was 4.5%. The positivity rate was highest in the Detention Centers with 14.9%, followed by STD clinics with 12.4%, and Prenatal Clinics reported an 11.7% positivity rate. For women with gonorrheal infection, the positivity rate for co-infection with chlamydia was highest in STD clinics, with 1.9% for women aged 15-22 years and 2% for those aged 23-30 years.
PR STD surveillance data indicate that MSM are disproportionately impacted by sexually transmitted infections and HIV, and they account for an increasing number of new STD cases. As mentioned above, syphilis rates among PR males were six times higher than females, and the rate has increased substantially since 2001. This increase in the male/female incidence ratio is attributed to a sharp incline in syphilis among MSM.
PROFAMILIA has been addressing public health problems linked to the increase in unwanted pregnancies among adolescents, particularly the rise in STDs rates. In PR, sexual activity among the youth starts from 12 years of age and the incidence rate of AIDS and other notifiable STDs was higher in people aged 15-29 years. Therefore, in response, the organization developed a program to offer preventive education to PR youth, enabling young teens and adults to use peer counseling techniques to utilize peer counseling methods and teach others about responsible sexual practices and prevention of STDs and HIV/AIDS.
The AIDS Project for Adolescents is another important initiative by PROFAMILIA in which peer education is provided to young people about STDs and HIV/AIDS prevention. This is a unique way to offer education, as adults don't provide sex education from an authoritative point of view. PROFAMILIA has established eight Family Planning Information Centers across the territory to increase PR residents' accessibility to family planning.
STDcheck.com is a widespread statewide service in PR offering STD testing facilities. In PR, STDcheck.com's test results are delivered within two days, and the facility is compliant with local and federal privacy mandates, such as the HIPSS Privacy Rule. Testing is offered in a completely confidential environment, and results are not added to the individual's permanent medical record. More than four thousand confidential STD testing centers are established around PR, where STI tests are carried out with complete accuracy and authenticity, and medications are prescribed by a specialist if required.
Since the 1990s, the Pan American Health Organization's Program on AIDS/STD has carried out activities focused on vulnerable populations, particularly females. The Latin American Center for Sexually Transmitted Diseases (Centro Latinoamericano de Enfermedades de Transmisión Sexual or CLETS) is among the territory's largest publicly funded STI clinics operating in PR.
Among the primary activities of CLETS include epidemiological surveillance and direct technical cooperation. In 2007 a research collaboration was commenced between researchers at the University of Puerto Rico's School of Public Health and CLETS to assess STI/HIV screening facilities in the San Juan metropolitan area. Since then, the organization has focused its efforts on expanding PR residents' access to quality STD/HIV screening, diagnosis, and treatment.
Most people experience feelings of hesitation when going to get tested for STD, despite knowing they might have contracted one. EasySTD was created to change that.
Visit your nearest lab or clinic, order your home testing kit online, and follow the given instructions from an STD testing provider.
After ordering your STD test, visit the testing center to get tested or take a self sample including urine, cotton swab, or finger prick with the home testing kit and mail it back.
Receive the lab-certified results of your STD test from your test provider via mail or phone within 2 to 3 days. If the test comes positive, consult your doctor immediately.